In these days and age, so many resources available for you to find anything, anytime. Too many that it becomes overwhelming.
When you plan a wedding, you already have so many things on your hand. Adding unnecessary stress is unnecessary. Whether it’s time to choose your vendors, so many things to consider — especially their price & quality. Most of us always want to get the best value, agree?
As for wedding photography, by now you should be aware that there are hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of wedding photographers existing in one region/state. So, how to “weed out” all the photographers that chances are not going to fit with you? I have some tips (this is practically what we’ve done for our wedding).
1 – Set a budget for a wedding photographer.
Venue + Decoration, Food & Photography are probably 3 items that will eat the most part of your budget. Set budget wisely, and stick with it. I believe in financial freedom and wisdom. When a photographer says “If they LOVE my work, they will (or make an effort to) hire me regardless my pricing” — well, I might have to disagree. I always put myself in your shoes, since I was there before (got married). If I don’t see the pricing on the website, or at least the starting price, I would immediately assume:
1. They are too expensive, or
2. They are not consistent with their pricing.
Those photographers might have their own reason, and I respect that, but in all honesty that is the impression I received when I don’t see a hint of their pricing.
But maybe…, if you so in love with that unpriced wedding photographer, ask away for sure! (I will write about setting an expectation in the price/budget for wedding photography).
2 – Seeing is believing.
Check their actual works, their portfolios. Don’t just go blindly by what they describe their style, but see it for yourself and think “is it really the kind of style/photo that I want for my wedding?”
For example, many photographers claim to have “Clean & Fresh” style, but yet they have a different tone in colors, different approach to lighting, etc. One photographer probably excels during the outdoor ceremony, but very lacking on the first dance during the indoor reception. Or one is very good with detail shot (flower, ring, dress) but completely fall flat and dull during the dancing hour.
Their blog is a very good place to look at instead of their portfolio, as a blog post covers more segments of ONE wedding throughout the day instead of only a few of the best pictures.
Just make sure you love their photography style from getting ready, all the way to the grand exit.
3 – Make sure they are a legit business entity.
While high-end camera in the market becomes more accessible and affordable in the market, EVERYONE can become a self-proclaim wedding photographer. Just make sure they are serious about running their business, or at least have a proper documentation as doing a business.
I don’t mean to look down upon part-timer or people who just started recently (as all of us have our starting point), but it is important to protect yourself from the sham photography business that has been around so much lately. Do a simple cross-check, ask for references from past client, and actually contact them. To look up their business name in the State directory also not a bad idea.
4. Understand very well what you will get from the photographer.
How much the downpayment? Is it refundable? Will you get the high-resolution files? Approximately how many pictures you will received? How far are they willing to travel before charging travel fees? How many photographers? How long before you can see the photos? How will it work if you want them to stay overtime? And so many other questions.
The point is, know your photographer(s) very well.
A professional photographer(s) will try to presents all of this upfront, to avoid miscommunication.
5. Google and Google Image (even Craigslist).
Now where to find photographers? Literally anywhere. You might think The Knot and Wedding Wire right off the bat, but if you want to be a little adventurous, try Google, Google Image, even Craigslist!
Yes, I know the bad taste that Craigslist been implanted in our brain, but I’m still advertising on Craigslist even today (for free!), and see other legit and professional businesses on CL.
The thing with The Knot and Wedding Wire is they are merely a commercial site, where it’s only those who paid lots of $$ can be visible to broad visitors, while the fact, a LOT of great and amazing wedding photographers that I know, refuse to pay so much money for that.
Yes, it means more work for you to find the right photographer(s). Yes, there are lots and lots of amateurs and crazies on Google and Craigslist, but you might find a hidden gem that perfectly fit your style, budget, and package!
5b. Use Creative Keywords
Try to play with a various keyword on your research, start with the region that you’re getting married. Instead of putting “New Hampshire Wedding Photographer” – try to put the name of the venue, or city, or region. For example “Seacoast” or “White Mountain Region” or “Southern NH” – this will help you to connect with local business, as they know the cities better, and they know a great place to have your engagement session should you’re having one.
Try to put the style you are looking for, such as “Modern Wedding Photography” or “Creative & Fun Wedding Photography” or “Glamour” etc… while you can also narrow them down by their region through Google Maps.
If you are on tight budget, add “Affordable” in your search, or type “High End” or “Luxurious” if your budget is limitless.
If you care so much about public recognition or reputation, you can also search “Award winning wedding photographer in… [state]”
Google reviews also a great indicator to conclude their business practice and service.
At the end of the day, it is not about what they offer, it is not what they sell you, but what you need to make your wedding day and experience well-reserved and captured in your book.