Out there in the wedding planning world, there is just as much confusion about how to choose and hire a wedding photographer as there is wedding photographers (at least in my neck of the woods). For most people, this is the first time they’ve hired a photographer themselves and probably the first time they’ve had professional photos taken since their senior pictures. And there are SO MANY photographers, guys. SO MANY.
This world I occupy over here as a wedding photographer is foreign to most people. When I meet with potential clients and ask them why did you decide to reach out to me? (I ALWAYS ask this question) their response is usually something about feeling like my portfolio lacked posed shots and they want natural, candid photos, or they stumble through a response about how they’re awkward in front of the camera and they thought my photos looked natural and pretty. I always ask this question to determine how much I need to educate my client and how thoroughly I need to explain my approach.
If I hadn’t ever picked up a camera or taken a photography class, I’d probably be just as confused as clients are about photography styles, lighting, timelines, shot lists, etc. And having hired a wedding photographer right before I entered this world as a wedding photographer myself, I’ve learned a lot about how the differences between photography styles since then. I just always want to ensure the client is hiring me for the type photography I do, in other words my style and myself, and that if they don’t jive with those things, I can help them find someone else who would be a much better fit.
So, when you’re choosing a wedding photographer, what should you be looking for? Here are my top tips for you.
Most photographers are probably approaching the logistics of your wedding the same way.
I’d say that most wedding photographers out there have moved towards a photojournalistic approach to shooting a wedding day. What does this mean? Pure photojournalism is literally the most unobtrusive kind of photography. The photographer steps back and captures events as they unfold. They are not there to create the moment, but to capture it as it occurs. Most photographers today will capture your wedding as it happens. If you’re not cool with being moved and posed all day, please ask your photographer if they take a laid back photojournalistic approach or if they are more traditional (think mom and dad’s photos). I am a wedding photographer who captures the day as it happens AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, excluding portrait sessions which are a little more directed, and I’d say most of the other people in the biz are the same.
But the end result can be COMPLETELY different.
Every photographer has a different take on how they tell your love story and the story of the day. This comes out through the photos they take, how they take these photos, where they stand, what lens they use, and ultimately how they process the photos.
It comes down to lighting, composition, and overall storytelling style.
Lighting: consider your venue
Lighting is hands down the most important thing to a photographer. If it is not, you should run away and find someone else.
Good photographers know how to work with the light they’re given or create lighting situations that work for the style they shoot. Photographers play with light differently and often play with light differently depending on the venue and wedding vibe. For instance, some photographers like to create really bright photos while others go for a moodier effect. Neither is correct, it’s all just style. Find the style of photos you like and look for photographers whose portfolios match. If their portfolio is inconsistent, really ask a lot of questions about style.
The biggest thing to take stock in when considering how lighting will effect your photos is your venue. If you’re hiring a natural light photographer and you’re having your reception in a dark banquet hall, make sure your photographer knows how to handle that (with flash I’d assume). Your photos will look different that that tented reception but the storytelling shouldn’t change.
Composition: where the story is
If creating a solid photo is mostly about the lighting, then composition is really where the storytelling lies. Composition is really just how does the photographer choose to set up the photo? Where are they standing? What are they shooting through? Are they laying on the ground?
Composition can make photos interesting. It can make photos romantic (think snuggles). It can make photos private and intimate. When you look through a portfolio, look at how the photographer has framed the shots. Are they all close ups? Is there a mix? Do they like to cut off people’s heads and focus on other parts? Do they focus on detail elements? Are the shots really wide?
These are all questions you can ask yourself to help identify the composition style of the photographer. For example, I’d say my style is definitely more focused on intimacy than on really wide shots–think sweeping landscape shots. I like to shoot through things. I sometimes get on the ground. Maybe I stand outside the door as a bride and bridesmaids chat and I snap a shot with the doorway in the frame to create a more interesting story than just a photo close up of the bride laughing.
Composition is a huge part of art and I could go on and on about it. But long story short: ask yourself how the photographer make things more interesting? Do the photos feel like they’re in the moment?
The most important element: overall storytelling style
I’m an English major, so I’m a sucker for all things story. It’s a big reason why I became a photographer. There is a right way to take a photo, of course. But photos are also art, or at least I consider them to be. There is an element of leeway there. And like I think some art is bad, people may think my photos are bad. It’s entirely subjective.
But when you’re looking at portfolios, ask yourself how the photos make you feel? When your wedding day is long gone, these are what you’ll have left. That and your fading memories honestly. You’re hiring a photographer to help you remember.
So are the photos funny? Are they romantic? Do you feel like you sense the personality behind the couple? Are they playful? Serious? A mix?
My photos are usually more on the playful side. I love a joyful, laughing couple. In fact, most of my couples don’t nail the serious look at all. But that’s the type of people I seem to attract. We literally laugh our way through sessions.
The bottom line? Do the photos and/or photographer make you happy?
If this has been an overall read for you, no worries. I promise that so long as you ask questions and make sure you’re hiring a legit business, it will be okay. The most important thing to remember is your photos will look similar to the work you’re looking at. Are you okay with that? Do they provoke some feeling in you?
And most of all, do you jive with the photographer? I purposefully do not book weddings without meeting at least the bride, preferably the couple together, because I’m one of the only people who will be with you through the entire wedding day. If you can’t stand me as a person, please don’t hire me. Meet your photographer. Make sure you’re comfortable with them. They may see you at your most anxious, stressful moment, and at your best moment. We don’t want to be strangers!
I hope this is helpful. If you have more questions about photography or what questions you should ask potential wedding photographers, please reach out to me!