Congratulations on your engagement! Now begins the exciting yet somewhat arduous journey of planning your wedding. One of the top priorities is hiring your wedding photographer.
Where do you start? Why, you can start right here!
Here’s a checklist you can keep in mind when starting to think about hiring your wedding photographer.
Know your terms
Be familiar with the words used when talking about photography.
Words like “editorial”, “documentary” or “commercial” get bandied around, which mean very different things to photographers than it does to our clients. Knowing these terms will help you communicate your vision better.
Editorial/Portraits: These are posed photos, which requires planning and direction. The photographer controls the setting, the poses and the expressions of its subjects.
The Portraits portion of your wedding photography contains scheduled First looks (also called reveals, where the couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony), bridals or groomals (which are portraits of the couple).
Engagement sessions are also portraits with some in-between candids.
Even if some portraits look like they’re natural and show the couple interacting, they are largely prompted to inspire candidness. It’s a common misconception that these situations happen organically – they sometimes do, but not always. Because most people are nervous in front of a camera, we often have to plan our sessions and prompt for a time-efficient, smooth and fun experience.
A skilled portrait photographer helps you feel comfortable in front of a camera, drawing out moments that make the photos uniquely yours.
These photos are unscripted and often work together in a group that tells a story. These are the “in-between” photos you’re looking for. JTPA is known for our strength in reportage.
Documentary photos are compositionally thoughtful. We wait for these moments and are intentional with layering and timing. They will often be emotional with lots of fun scenes upon which to look back, bringing your big day back in unexpected ways.
Wedding photography is subjective and personal. While there are many of us in the market, finding and hiring a wedding photographer that fits your needs can be a long, drawn-out process.
It’s wise to shop and hire your wedding photographer as soon as you secure your wedding venue.
The other advantage of shopping early is a flexible payment schedule so you can afford the photographer you love.
Most photographers ask for a 40-50% non-refundable date-reservation fee to book, with the remainder due a month or a few weeks before your wedding. That’s still a good chunk of cash to drop, so if you shop early enough, you may ask for a less intense payment schedule.
Ask to see full galleries
To appreciate good wedding photography, ask to see the wedding photographer’s most recent work in full galleries. These are galleries of past weddings they’ve delivered to their existing clients.
With the internet and digital media these days, this is pretty standard.
Ask for a full wedding gallery of a wedding shot in a similar setting. While the photographer doesn’t have to have shot at your exact venue, a similar setting with similar lighting conditions will suffice. Of course it’s best if they are familiar with the venue, but any professional wedding photographer should be able to adapt easily.
Gear and Insurance
Some wedding blogs will advise on asking what type of cameras, lenses and lights we use. I am a gear nerd, so I love geeking out on hardware. However, in all honesty, our cameras have little to do with the results, other than the practical aspect of having enough backup to make sure we don’t run into problems when shooting on-location.
Every wedding photographer should at least have two camera bodies, 4-5 lenses depending on what’s needed, 2-3 lights and accessories.
More importantly, we have a lot of redundancy and backup. We also have insurance to cover any malfunctions or accidents, including liability. Weddings are packed with people and activity, so anything can happen. A professional wedding photographer will have many scenarios covered gearwise, insurance-wise and backup-wise.
Ask for a timeline
Good photos come from good planning!
Hire a wedding photographer who’s experienced with timelines and pretty much can outline a whole wedding for you, save the nitty gritty details (and maybe even that!).
In Seattle and the PNW, seattle wedding photographers’ coverage usually spans around 7-8 hours. If you’re having a wedding with lots of events, plan for more hours.
Wedding photography coverage is usually consecutive – this means you’re not able to break them up per day.
We’ve written an article on wedding photography timelines here that we hope will help guide you along. With some finetuning, you’ll be set!
Ready to hire a wedding photographer?
Schedule your no-obligation consult with me today and put all these tips to test! I look forward to sharing my vision with you!