Find the One
How to hire the right photographer for you.
On their wedding day, Caitlin Cardina and Christopher Marett went to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams for a sundae, just like they did for their first date.
Derk's Works Photography
Most brides would jump at the opportunity to see their future wedding photographer in action at a wedding that’s not their own. That was the case for Adrienne (Smith) Earley, who, while attending a friend’s wedding in 2010 couldn’t help but notice the work ethic and friendly demeanor of photographer Wes Mosley. “I really liked his personality—he was very easygoing and had good ideas but wasn’t bossy,” Earley says. When she got engaged not long afterward, Earley and her fiance, Jason, met with Mosley to look at his work and talk pricing. They decided the next day that they wanted to book him for their October 2011 wedding.
Earley was lucky. Not only had she gotten the chance to see how Mosley worked at the wedding, but she also was able to look at her friend’s pictures afterward. The personal experience she already had with Mosley was key, she says, and she didn’t have to worry that she might not like the pictures later on.
Professional wedding photographers say it’s essential to find the right person for the job, especially since you might spend more time with your photographer than with any other person you’ve hired for your wedding. And it’s not uncommon for couples to start looking for a photographer as soon as they have booked their venue, or sometimes hiring the photographer first in order to secure them for their wedding day.
“I believe out of all the vendors the photographer has the most responsibility on his or her shoulders,” says Simon Yao of Simon Yao Studio. “After the food, after the party, what you have left are the memories.”
“Photography is the best vehicle for capturing your memories of your wedding day and just creating lifelong art that you can enjoy 10 years from now,” says Lauren Ewart of Barefeet Studio.
There are plenty of ways to stay on budget for a wedding—and most couples are on a budget for their big day. But, of all the services you’ll hire for the wedding day, photography is one worth some expense. Still, it’s tempting to ask a friend to take photos.
“If your friend doesn’t do it for a living or full-time and something happens, then your once-good friend might not be a friend anymore,” says Steven Hronek of Shoot 2 Studios. “You can save some cake and you might have your dress stacked away somewhere, but the pictures are the things that you can pass along and your grandkids can look at.”
“Wedding photography to me is so much more than showing up and taking photos. It’s the planning and the logistics that go into the day,” Ewart says. “A friend or amateur who has a pretty nice camera and will shoot your wedding for you and save you a ton of money might not realize all the planning that really has to go into getting ready to take pictures of a wedding day.”
You don’t want a friend taking your wedding photographs, but, like Earley, you want to feel a friendly connection with your wedding photographer.
“I can think of a lot of examples where I’ve kept in touch with couples,” says Hronek. “We’re friends on Facebook and we’ll still comment and interact with each other a year or more after the wedding.” Adds Ewart: “I want to be taking photos of my clients that are meaningful and real and are capturing who they are. And I think it’s really hard to do that without knowing your clients and without feeling comfortable with one another.”
Where to start
Tell friends and family you want recommendations for great photographers, and you might be surprised how many options your enthusiastic loved ones will send. Or ask other wedding vendors for recommendations—your caterer, baker and venue coordinator live and breathe all things wedding, and they’ll have great insider tips.
Once you have some recommendations, start clicking through portfolios online.
“You can find access to so many photographers online and looking through a photographer’s portfolio,” says Ewart. “If you love the images that you see on their portfolio and they move you, then that should be the indication to go onto the next step and contact them.”
The early bride gets the photographer: Popular dates in summer and autumn are often booked by the end of January that year. While your mind might be focused on finding a dress right after your engagement, the smart thing to look for is a photographer. If your heart is set on a specific photographer, you might even want to book him or her before you set a date for the wedding.
Photographers work in two basic styles: photojournalistic and traditional. One captures the action of the day as it unfolds, and the other is more formal and posed. Many couples these days want a mix of both styles.
“It’s OK if you don’t have that shot of everyone standing and holding their bouquets right in front of them and looking at the camera,” says Ewart. “You’re not necessarily trying to capture so much as that formal shot but the essence of the day. And that’s caught more in the in-between moments where as a photographer you’re kind of buzzing around like a fly in the room.”
Ewart comes from a fine-arts back–ground and says she appreciates the demand from brides today to take more candid photos and rely less on staged shots. “It’s definitely grown so much artistically and creatively, with brides accepting that and really desiring that for their wedding photos,” she says.
When you connect with a photographer, you can start thinking about money. It’s important to go into these discussions with an open mind—any experienced photographer certainly will. While photographers offer packages with fixed prices, they’re also often willing to negotiate nips and tucks to those packages to satisfy a client.
When you talk about money with your photographer, you should first have a firm understanding of your total wedding budget and how much of it you’re willing to commit to the photographer. As you hire vendors for the many aspects of the wedding, you’ll need to prioritize spending. Photography typically accounts for 7 to 14 percent of the total budget, but there are a lot of variables. You will want to know exactly what services and products you’ll receive from your photographer. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Does the photographer work with an assistant? Does that person also take photographs, or does he or she help only with lighting and equipment?
- If more than one photographer is working the wedding day, how will their time and effort be divided? You should have an idea of who will be with you (or your groom) at various points in the day.
- If you’re having a destination wedding, what are the photographer’s expectations regarding travel, lodging and meal expenses?
- When all the photos have been taken, what do you hope to keep for years to come? One big wedding album? A complete set of printed proofs?
- Do you want to buy the digital files from the photographer and be responsible for your own prints? Let him keep the rights to the images and sell you prints?
- Will your photographer tote a laptop or tablet on the wedding day and show you sneak peeks of, say, the ceremony when you’re at the reception? Are you interested in projecting any of the day’s images to your reception guests?
When recent bride Megan (Troyer) Alt started her search for a photographer, she knew she wanted to find someone who was familiar with the Plain City area, where her October wedding would be taking place. Eventually, Alt’s mother-in-law recommended family friend Jessica Yoder of Jessica Photography, who has shot in Plain City before. It wasn’t until a few months after meeting with Yoder that Alt and her fiance, Justin, decided to give her a call back. “She grew up in the same area we did and she knew of places out around us that we could go and take pictures,” Alt says. “We liked that she knew the area and was able to help us go from there.”
Alt was also impressed after seeing some of Yoder’s beautiful outdoor shots. Alt describes her and Justin’s style as “out in the country” and felt that Yoder would be able to capture the beauty of Ohio in the fall in their wedding photos. Alt says she enjoyed her experience with Yoder so much that she only wishes they had more time to take pictures. “She was more of a friend, you know, that connection where you can just be really comfortable around her and she just really wanted to make this just about us,” says Alt. “You could just tell that she really cared about the work she did.”
Photos courtesy of Adam Lowe Photography, Barefeet Studios and Our Dream Photos by James DeCamp Photography