Written by John Bauld, Professional Photographer | JBP
Step 1: Beginning your search
Word of mouth: Definitely one of the most powerful forms of advertising, especially when someone you know well has had a direct experience with a product or service. Has a family member or friend recently been engaged or married? You will most likely have many people in your inner circle that you trust who will be able to give you an honest review regarding their photographer. Consider reaching out through social media, as you will surely begin a thread of opinions you can further investigate.
Bridal site/community: Online bridal communities are a fantastic one-stop resource. Often these sites have interactive forums built right in to their community where you can directly speak to vendors, including couples who have already booked their photographer, some of whom will have already held their wedding and arrived back from their honeymoon.
Web search: A little obvious, however worth a mention on a few points. The sites that rank at the top will have put allot of time and energy into their blogs, networking, advertising etc and getting their work out to the masses. Donʼt be afraid to dig a little deeper into the search engine pages – you may just uncover that hidden gem.
Step 2: Narrowing down your choices
Make a list of your top candidates. Bookmark or cut and paste websites into a text file/email so as to make for easy referencing down the road. There are endless discussions, debates, and points that we could go into on the topic of making your final photographer selection such as company vs sole proprietor/individual, keeping digital negatives vs ordering images afterwards through your photographer, a second photographer vs one lead or main photographer only etc. In the spirit of simplifying the process, three imperative points for you to consider have been outlined in the next step.
Step 3: Making the decision
Strongly consider the following factors when making your final choice:
The Price: Staying on budget is definitely important. The average overall wedding cost in Canada is somewhere in the area of around $24,000, and you will certainly find many varying price points when inquiring for a photography quote. How much have you allocated for photography and are you realistically able to spend? Wedding coordinators & planners often suggest spending 10-12% of your overall budget on photography as a general guideline, or starting point. Photographers will offer many varying ways of doing business which may include a la carte, actual packages to choose from and/or customized quotes depending on the products and services you like. Is the most important element to you the coverage time, keeping the digital negatives, having a second photographer, completed albums, an engagement photo session, included thank you cards or some other product/service? This will be a very personal choice, and it could even be all of the above mentioned. Whatever the final decision is, make a list in order of importance and have a rough idea as to what you feel that you can realistically spend based on the suggested formula above. When you look back at your big day, you will likely not be able to recall what was spent on wedding photography. However, you will always retain your memories through the photos and certainly your opinion about them.
The Work: Styles will vary greatly. Photography is a form of artistic expression and subjective. Does the feel align with how you see yourself, and how you would like your family to be depicted? Are there more posed images or actual real moments, and which do you prefer? You will know what you do like and donʼt like almost immediately when browsing through prospective portfolios. Pay careful attention to how people look in the images, and always request to see actual printed work beyond an online or digital portfolio. Be sure that the work you are viewing is actually the work of the person that you are meeting with in cases where you are visiting a studio with multiple or teams of photographers who work under the same company name. You will get a good sense of what you can expect from the viewing presentation.
The Actual Photographer: The most important aspect of booking your photographer is the actual person who you select to work with. The price you pay and style in the work will not matter if you are not in sync, or unhappy with the person you selected for the wedding day – with the flip side being that you may have a really memorable day if you find someone who you really gel with. Always meet your photographer before making a final decision. If it is logistically not possible (in cases where the wedding will require extensive travel for the day to happen), scheduling an online meeting through services such as Skype or Facetime are good options above and beyond a phone call. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this person, and would you want to spend your entire wedding day with them? Are they professional in terms of your interactions, and what is their personality like? How many years have they been photographing for, and do they have training through a recognized institution and/or ample experience – how about testimonials? There is no official governing body licensing photographers, so you will have to feel this part out for yourself to some extent. Meet with a few different photographers to be able to compare your experiences with each, and always hire a professional who has made photography a career choice with real world experience under their belt. This will ensure that your day will run smoothly as a professional will know what to do in instances of unforeseen situations or scenarios that might arise. Often you are venturing into a new relationship that doesn’t end after the wedding. You may choose to hire your trusted vendor back for future family milestones or portraits after children are born for instance, if starting a family is in the cards. If you can work with your photographer before the wedding by booking an engagement photo session, it is a wonderful opportunity to mutually get to know one another, and a great way for you to verify your choice.
Step 4: Seal the deal
You did it! From the beginning stages of asking around and searching online, you narrowed your choices, met with a few different people who made your short list, and followed the criteria in the previous steps to come to a decision. Now you have the perfect photographer for your special day. Make sure that there is an agreement in black and white that states clearly what you will be receiving, when you can expect the photos, payment terms and all of the other pertinent details. This contract protects both parties, and is mutually beneficial to the client and photographer. Be sure to secure your date from other potential bookings with a deposit or retainer for services.
Following these basic steps will ensure that you have impeccable photo memories captured, and feel great about the decision that you have made. The day will go by so fast, so schedule a private break with your significant other of at least five to ten minutes throughout the day to really be present with one another as a newlywed couple and take it all in. Congratulations, and wishing you the very best on your big day!