This one might be long, so get comfy. Being a photographer myself, I could go on and on about wedding photographers. But I’ll try to stay to the point.
You should book your photographer 2-3 months in advance to ensure you get one you like, they have an open slot for your wedding, and so you can pay them over time (if your photographer allows this – it is definitely something to try to negotiate).
When sorting through potential photographers it’s perfectly okay to be stingy and nit-picky. This is your wedding, and at the end of that day it will all be over and all you’ll have left will be the pictures that your photographer gives you. You need them to be good ones. I instantly threw out photographers who didn’t have an online gallery and photographers who had never shot weddings. Shooting a wedding is very challenging, and is similar to sport or action photography. You need to be able to predict the next move in order to get the best shots, so having someone who has experience with wedding photography goes above and beyond any other photographer. It is also important to be able to look at their previous work. This tells you their style, their angles, whether they shoot in just black and white or just color (or both, which is a plus!), and what kind of quality their photos are in. Here are some things to look for:
Look for focus – Are the main subjects blurry or off-centered? Is the image focused in the wrong spot or at the wrong depth? (Such as a photo of the bride and groom but the image is focused in the background)
Look for noise – Are the images grainy? Do colors seem blotchy?
Look at poses – (If they’ve shot more than one wedding…) Are the exact same poses used in every wedding? Do the subjects look posed or do they look natural and relaxed?
Look at exposure – Do the photographers pictures have a trending underexposure (or overexposure)? Meaning are the majority of their photos too dark or too bright?
Look at editing techniques – What kind of contrast are you seeing in their work (are the darks super dark and the lights washed out)? Do they add to or photoshop their photos too much? Are their colors over-saturated?
Price is a major concern with photographers. A lot of them think it’s perfectly okay to charge you out the wazoo, but here’s a little bit of the truth. Yes, their equipment is expensive. Yes, the editing software they use is expensive. And yes, sorting through upwards of 1,500 photos (or much more) and editing them takes a lot of hours. But I’ve never met a photographer that didn’t enjoy their work. And there is no reason to get paid a vast amount of money to spent 7-8 hours at a party doing something you love and then going home and sitting on your butt going through the photos. I’m sorry. Not happening.
One of the photographers I contacted wanted $1,500 to spend 8 hours with us, give us a couple prints, and a disc of our pictures. I just about died. I would advise not to spend anything over $1,000 on a photographer, and even that is pushing it. I would rather say don’t go above $800, but getting a good photographer at that price for an all day event can be hard. This is why it is so vitally important to know before you hire if you like their work or not. If you think it’s so-so, look elsewhere. But try not to settle. If it comes down to two or three photographers that are available and that you love, let the lowest price win. [I can not stress enough how important it is to look at their previous work…]
Once you have chosen you photographer, here are some things to work through. Ask them if they have payment options or if they will let you pay them between now and the wedding. This spreads out the cost so you don’t have to fork out that much money all at once. Find out how they give you your photos – do they actually print out prints for you or do they give you a disc with printing rights. All I needed was a disc, so that also helped me choose a photographer. With a disc you can email your wedding photos, post them on Facebook, and print them off cheaply either at home or at WalMart. You should also make a list (or find one on the internet) of specific photos that you want taken. If a photographer isn’t willing to follow this, find someone else. (If you do this…) I would advise making it extremely clear that this is what you are hiring them for. Be sure that they are going to get those photos for you.
Meet with your photographer in person when you hire them. Give them your checklist of photos and ask for some kind of contract or information in writing about the set price and what you will be getting. It may also be beneficial to take your own notes in your wedding planner. I wrote down my photographers name, the hours I was paying her for (1 PM – 8 PM with a 1 hour break, making for 6 paid hours), the time she estimated it would take for her to have our photos ready, and the price/hour she was charging us.
This should make dealing with wedding photographers a breeze for you. I have published the checklist I gave our photographer here. Feel free to copy, paste, and print it if you would like to use it! You may also add to it if you’d like.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)