Congratulations, you’re engaged!!! After you finish doing the happy dance, it’s time to get down to the business of starting your wedding planning! And finding the perfect wedding photographer should be on the top of your list. (Here are my other Austin wedding vendor recommendations.) The best photographers will typically book 6-12 months in advance, and the busiest months of the year will go fast. In Texas, the four most popular months for weddings are April, May, October, and November because of the wonderful outdoor weather. So if you plan on getting married in those months, it’s never too early to start! Once you start getting your Google on, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the numerous pages of links and options. How to narrow it down? Follow my top 5 tips below to find the perfect photography match for you on your wedding day. I’ve been at this for a while and feel like I can give pretty good advice!
1. DO THEIR PHOTOS RESONATE WITH YOU? This is a no-brainer, so start by trying to define the photography style that you like best. Search wedding magazines and blogs, and make note of the photography styles that really speak to you, both emotionally and visually. Now try to put an adjective to that look. Romantic? Vintage? Modern? Quirky? Colorful? Creative? Do the research, look at as many wedding photos as you can, and see what you like! It is important to judge the quality of the photos in photographer’s portfolios as well. Are they well-lit? Sharp and in focus? Would you want to hang one of their portraits on your wall someday? Does the photographer shoot photos that are adventurous and unique or are they standard and traditional? Be sure you’ve thoroughly viewed your favorite photographers websites and blogs to narrow the selection before you start making appointments. When you contact the photographer, don’t hesitate to ask them if you can see a whole wedding in it’s entirety, so you can really see a solid example of what you would be getting from start to finish. That’s a lot more important than seeing a selection of curated highlights (from many different weddings) on their website.
2. DO THEY COME HIGHLY RECOMMENDED? The best wedding photographers have reputations in the wedding world, and therefore are relatively well known by other top wedding vendors. So start by asking for recommendations from recently married friends, and also ask at meetings with other wedding vendors. If your wedding planner, caterer, or florist is willing to stake their reputation on a photographer, that’s a really good sign! Then consult their online reviews at such sites at The Knot, Yelp, Google Business Listings or WeddingWire and confirm their ratings are top notch. Once you have narrowed it down to your favorites from research, ratings, and photography style, now it’s time to reach out with an inquiry email or phone call. Note how long is takes them to return your email or phone call? Do they ask a lot of questions about your day, and express a genuine interest? Do they pay attention to the little details, or do they seem scatterbrained? If a photographer takes care of the small details, chances are very good they will handle the bigger details of excellent customer service well, too. If you have the bad luck of finding out that your favorite photographer is already booked on your wedding date, be sure to ask them who they recommend!
3. ARE THEY IN YOUR BUDGET? This is as big a part of the equation, obviously! Every photographer should list a “starting price” somewhere on their website. Be sure that they are roughly within the budget you can realistically afford before reaching out. If you aren’t sure, most photographers will happily email you a complete price list to look over prior to scheduling a meeting. Just like most things in life, you really do get what you pay for. There are only so many weekends in the year, so the number of weddings a single photographer can book is limited. So as a photographer comes into greater demand, their prices will certainly go up. The end result is that the best photographers are more expensive than others. You want someone who invests a lot of time and energy into perfecting their craft, and that comes at a price.
When photographers are significantly cheaper, that likely means one of two things. 1) The photographer is just starting out in the industry, or 2) you are getting a cheaper end product. Cheaper photographers may not have insurance, may use album companies without lifetime guarantees, get their printing done at drug stores, or simply just don’t deliver what they promised. If you have a limited budget for wedding photography, invest the money in the best photographer you can afford, and remember you don’t have to book the biggest package. You can always add on extra hours as your big day gets closer, and you can always buy wedding albums and other products after the wedding. In fact, some of my couples get on a payment program where they pay monthly installments for 12 months to get an album for their 1st anniversary. You’re probably going to spend more than you originally planned, but you’ll be doing it because you like the pictures so much that you WANT to buy the extras. Every professional should have a contract to legally bind your agreement, so read the fine print and make sure all your questions are answered about what is included in the packages. Do you get printing rights to your images? Will your photos be hosted in an online gallery? Do they require a hot meal for themselves and an assistant?
4. DO YOU CLICK WITH THEIR PERSONALITY? Personality is a really big deal when making your final choice! Your wedding photographer is literally the ONLY vendor who will be by your side from the start to the finish of the big day. You may spend an entire year in correspondence with your photographer, from your first engagement session to the delivery of your heirloom wedding album. If you find your photographer annoying, brusk, cheesy, or they just plain rub you the wrong way, then keep looking! The most beautiful wedding photo of all time will just make you cringe if the photography experience sours it! So ask yourself… can you picture the photographer by your side all day at your wedding? Will they handle your crazy family with care and professionalism? Will they help you calm down if you feel stressed and ready to cry? Will they fit in seamlessly to your day? Trust your gut intuition on this one.
5. ARE THEY TRULY A PROFESSIONAL? The best way to ensure you receive quality wedding photography is to hire a seasoned professional with many years of solid experience. Sure, an amateur can shoot some nice natural light photos, but weddings are extremely fast paced and require technical knowledge of both the camera and lighting gear that can only come from experience. The wedding day will require the “best of the best” equipment, multiple fast lenses, back-up camera bodies, and a plethora of lighting equipment that most newbies don’t even know they need. Wedding photography is the most challenging type of photography, combining the skill sets of portrait photographer, photojournalist, and product photographer all in one! Dealing with every detail of a wedding, interacting with the bride & groom, their families, and at times… hundreds of people, AND still maintaining the highest level of technical excellence… well, that just plain takes experience. Don’t skimp by choosing a “friend of a friend” who recently got into wedding photography, or you will inevitably be sorely disappointed for years to come. After your wedding day has come and gone, the pictures are the ONLY thing you’ll have to look back on. It would be heartbreaking to not have wedding photos you LOVE to look back on.
I wish all of you a happy 2013, full of love and perfect weddings! Please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below!
908 East 5th St. Suite 112 Austin, TX 78702
Best of the Knot: 2010, 2011, 2012 + 2013
Wedding Wire Bride’s Choice: 2011 + 2012