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Choosing a Photographer

Once your wedding is complete, the pictures will be one of your only tangible keepsakes. This seemingly underscores the value in selecting a photographer who is a right fit with your needs. Below are some tips you can use to help you in this important process:

Personality:

It is so important to spend time with your potential photographer, interview them, ask them questions, hire them for an engagement shoot, etc. This allows you to get an understanding of their personality and whether or not they seem easy to work with. This person will be at your wedding as long (if not longer) than you will be, so ensuring they have a good attitude and work ethic is paramount. Any good photographer will expect questions and expect you to want to review their work. If a photographer is hesitant to meet or show his or her work, run away as fast as you can!

Are they a professional?

A hired photographer should be a true professional. With the advent of inexpensive digital cameras, many people think that a camera and some business cards is all that is required to effectively run a photography business. It couldn't be further from the truth and that mentality typically results in problems down the road. A professional will have a website, an e-mail address, a comprehensive portfolio (online or hard copy), a business license, referrals, and will be happy to furnish these items upon request. It is not necessary that photography is their only source of income, but it certainly helps if they take it seriously enough to do it legally and properly. Doing so implies a vested interest in your satisfaction and quality of images.

Budget

When creating your budget, it is more important to spend money on a photographer for whom you love their style and work, versus spending less money on a mediocre photographer who gives more items in the package. Provided your photographer gives you the option to buy negatives/digital files, you can always do albums and re-prints later when budget permits, but the quality of images you can't change. Figure at least 15-20% of your wedding budget towards a professional and high quality photographer.

Photographer's Style

Do you like candid moments of a bride and groom walking in a grassy field, playful magazine style images, artistic effects, or do you find that you gravitate towards traditional posed images? Each of these styles (photojournalistic or traditional respectively) have their place in modern wedding photography and some photographers cater to both. Regardless it is important to look through examples and decide what you like, then find a photographer who specializes in that style.

What are you getting?

Digital Media:

It is very standard these days to have the option of purchasing the digital negatives. Many photographers offer this at a premium (since it reduces their print sales and also does not allow them to control the print quality and subsequently their reputation) however it is a good option for you to use the images for digital purposes (e.g., e-mailing, putting on your computer, making fun products like calendars, cards, etc.). However, for prints you should always ask your photographer for their suggested print labs so you can get your excellent quality wall hangings printed on wedding quality paper and finish. Typically a photographer will offer this service for you and have purchasing options for re-prints. While the per image cost is not cheap, these are archival, color managed, wedding quality prints and the last thing you will want to do is hire an excellent photographer and then print their work at a discount lab to save money. If anything, choose a few pictures and pay to have them printed by the photographer and use the digital images for archiving, facebook, and fun things you cannot do with prints. Upon purchasing the digital media, many photographers will put the images on a DVD for you. One thing to be aware of is that media (e.g., DVDs, CDs, hard-drives, etc.) will eventually fail so it is your responsibility to transfer these images to modern and newer media every few years. Many photographers will offer archival storage for you so you can obtain the images by simply contacting the photographer many years down the road. This is a nice service to invest in as it requires professional attention and constant maintenance.

Albums:

Albums are also changing for the better. No longer are you required to have prints placed in a page with a pre-cut mat. While this classy, formal album has its place, many modern couples are going the route of digitally designed and printed coffee table books or hard cover albums. These elegant offerings have the advantage of running full page (even double page) images with smaller images on top of them, creatively laid out, resulting in a modern published book feel. These are excellent quality and do not require you to obtain actual prints first. Since most wedding photographers outsource album design and creation, don't let this be a deciding factor in who you hire, but instead see what the photographer offers. If they don't have options you like, ensure you can purchase the digital prints and buy the albums elsewhere.

Additional Questions:

1. Do you hire a second photographer to join you? This is important and typically results in the best images since you have two styles and two people to cover critical moments from multiple angles. Additionally, the second photographer can take many candid shots while the primary photographer is spending up to two hours doing formals. If the photographer offers this service, it is generally worth the small additional investment.

2. Do you shoot digital or film (or both)? This shouldn't really impact you too much, other than there are more options with digital. If they are shooting film, you should ensure you can still get digital files (by scanning). If shooting digital, ensure they are taking appropriate measures to backup images (using more than one memory card), backing up files on site or immediately after the event. Your memories are too precious to be lost to a computer or user error. Many photographers will use more than one camera body and have copies of your files in more than one place. Many will backup onsite as well. You can also ask about long-term archiving and how long they store your images and or allow you to purchase prints on the online gallery.

3. Do you have a contract? A contract is important for both parties as it forces both parties to examine all scenarios. It also minimizes you from having to think of potential problems and how they will be handled. More importantly it re-enforces that you are dealing with a professional; one who seemingly cares about what they are providing for you.

4. What do you wear for the wedding? This is perfectly okay to ask and any photographer will want to ensure they fit in with the attire. Most will want to blend in and compliment your day perfectly, not distract from it. Most professionals will wear a business casual attire and most times wear a sport coat and tie. If a tuxedo is preferred by you, ensure you arrange who will pay for it, typically it is your responsibility. If it is a casual beach wedding, perhaps you will want to photographer to be much more casual.