When I was searching for a wedding photographer, I had no idea what to look for or how much it would cost. I started with one of those local wedding resource pages and just started browsing other photographers' work. I found one I completely fell in love with, but alas, they were already booked for our date.
However, I found out the style that I liked so much was called 'photojournalism' - less emphasis on posed pictures and more on just capturing the event and the unexpected details. So I started using that term in my web searches and found more photographers, and also found a site for the Wedding Photojournalist Association - bingo! This site gave me a lot more options in my area, within the style I was looking for.
I then browsed a LOT of photographers' sites. My method isn't scientific - it couldn't be, because what I was looking for was *art*. So I simply sat back and browsed. Looked to see whose pictures jumped out at me.
Some photographers had a style that just didn't do it for me. Others had a few pictures that caught my eye. But there were a few where nearly every photo in their portfolio was a WOW shot. Of course, these portfolios are heavily edited compilations of many events, but I felt confident that if nearly the whole portfolio wowed me, then that was a pretty good bet that I'd like their work at our wedding.
So the next step was to review the prices (if posted) and then reach out and contact the short list. Because I'm lazy like that, I eliminated anyone who didn't have a way to email them. I asked a few key questions:
- Rates (if not posted clearly) and whether there was a print order minimum $
- Availability for the dates we were considering
- Whether we could get all of the pictures on a DVD and if that was an extra charge
Making the Decision
Once I got the answers back and have narrowed the list based on availability and budget, we had to make the big decision. For things like weddings, or family portrait shoots on weekends, you need to book early and decide fast because the good photographers are BUSY. We got around this for our family portraits by booking them on a Friday afternoon and thus could get Kristi on relatively short notice.
That first wedding photographer whose work I fell in love with sent me a short list of other folks with similar styles, which was super helpful. In the end, I chose one of those and we were REALLY happy with our pictures.
Depending on the significance of the event, you may want to *meet* with the photographer in person before deciding who to hire. After all, for a wedding, this person is going to be following you around for most of the day, and it's a pretty big responsibility you're entrusting them with. There are no do-overs.
We did this for our wedding photographer, and meeting with Bradley was what really sealed the deal for us. He and TJ talked about motorcycles, he talked to us about his philosophy of work, and showed us some recent wedding photos he'd taken. We liked him, and really got the sense that he was a professional. We also felt he wasn't going to be intrusive, which was a big deal for us. We didn't want to be constantly aware of the photographer, or worse, interrupted by him to "look here at the camera!" or "hey, can we recreate that moment? I missed it."
On the other hand, we met with another guy who was starting out in the business, and he was sort of timid and shy, and didn't give us that confident "I can handle this" vibe. He might have done just fine, but our wedding was not a time for experimentation.
Most photographers have you sign a contract and put down a deposit once you've made your choice, and that holds the date for you. This is especially important for weddings - you don't want to get close to the day and then find out the photographer wasn't really holding the date for you. It's really hard to find a great photographer on short notice. For a summer wedding in Seattle, the good ones book over a year in advance. Crazy, I know.
So you've decided on a photographer. Some people think the work is done, and you just wait for the day and look good, and get some pictures taken.
But I picked up a tip from one of those ubiquitous wedding-planning magazines: make a list of the shots that you want for sure, both candid and posed. Now, you've hired a professional so you're not trying to micromanage their creative process, but if you want a shot of you in your wedding dress holding your beagle, you need to let the photographer know. And on the big day, you might not remember the list.
For our family photos, I emailed a short list to Kristi, and asked for her feedback because I wanted to be clear that I wasn't trying to micromanage. I made the list fairly vague and just discussed the subjects, not the style:
- All five of us (people and dogs)
- Baby and each dog interacting or at least looking at each other :)
- One good chubby baby arms and legs and bare feet shot
- Baby and mama, and baby and daddy
- My husband and Peanut
We also asked her if she needed any 'props' and she suggested a neat idea where we'd all be wearing white, in our bed, with a white comforter and sheets, snuggling with the baby. That worked out really well, even though it was the last set of shots so we didn't change T back into her white onesie:
Have all the outfits and props, plus any additional payments ready to go. Once the photo shoot is underway, you don't want to disrupt the "flow" by trying to deal with business details. Of course, if a baby's diaper needs to be changed, or the dog needs to go out, you'll deal with it, but it's best to get everything else ready ahead of time. Then again, I'm a planner like that.
And then just do your thing. Try to ignore the fact that there's a photographer there and go about your business. Eventually you'll stop noticing him/her, and that's when the magic happens!