HIRING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Congratulations! You are engaged. It's an exciting period in your life and you'll spend the next bit of time informing people and perhaps sharing photos of the ring and maybe of the engagement.
Next you will pick a date. That's the biggest decision of all. Spring, fall? Summer?? Maybe even winter. A part of the date decision is the venue decision. Especially if your wedding is going to be winter or summer - being outside might not be practical. Even with a spring or fall wedding, your venue will need an indoor rain plan - and that could be a big tent. Do you want a country-style barn wedding, or a country club wedding. Funny how the word "country" is used in both of those terms and yet they mean something entirely different. Will you have your ceremony in a church or at the reception venue?
So anyway. Let's say that decision is made. Your wedding dress usually comes second. But that's a different chapter. Next many brides start thinking of photographers. You do want pictures, right? How much do we really want to spend? Can't a friend do it? And what about film, or videography? Brides call it videography and the camera people frequently call it cinematography. There is a difference. But that's another chapter.
You've seen the photos from your friends' weddings and you know what you like. Even before you decided on the venue, you started looking at weddings pics on Instagram and Pinterest.
Hold the phone, stop the presses. I've got some important information for you: A BRIDE CANNOT SELECT A PHOTOGRAPHER BASED SOLELY ON THE PHOTOS THEY ADVERTISE. I don't mean to say that your photos will look different; they won't. If you like that washed-out look, that's what you will get. If you like the color and vibrancy of a photographer and you hire them, that's what you'll get.
But consider this: You will carefully pick your bridesmaids. You are going to spend over a year planning and a BUNCH of somebody's money on this gala event. You don't want to spend the day with any friends that might bring you down. So why would you hire a photographer and spend all day with that person without knowing what that is like. Clearly engagement sessions help. But engagement sessions are just three people. No crowds and no time constraints. In an engagement session, your photographer has plenty of time to set the lighting and get the pose right. That is not the case on wedding day. Trust me, I have filmed over 200 weddings and wedding day goes fast. There is not time to stop the action and say, "Let's do that again." But guess what? I've seen photographers do that. And usually it's the high-end photographers who act like that! I've seen a photographer stop the bridal party reception entrance for almost two minutes while he got the light setting correct on his camera. He literally kept over 200 people waiting while he messed with his camera. And the whole time, he acted like it was a studio shoot and everyone attending the wedding was an extra at his disposal.
So while the style of photography that you are seeking in a wedding photographer is important, you need to do some research in what it is like to spend a whole day with them. Check weddingwire.com and read the worst reviews they have. Ask the venue what it's like to work with her or him. Ask the caterer. Ask the cake designer - you would be surprised how much they notice on wedding day. Most importantly, ask your planner. Yes, you need a planner. And there is a difference between wedding planning, wedding design, and wedding coordination. But that's a different chapter.
Some photographers show up with a second shooter. That's a good idea. And you wanna be sure that the second shooter isn't an amateur spouse, or friend. You want that person to be a trained and skilled photographer who simply didn't book their own wedding that day. But (and here's the first INSIDER TIP) some photographers show up with ASSISTANTS, not second shooters. I have seen photographers show up with contest winners who's prize was to shoot a wedding with this "celebrity photographer." Guess what? Your photographer is going to spend a bunch of his or her day showing the intern/contest winner how he programmed the lighting on his camera menu. Do you want that happening on your wedding day?
Here's INSIDER TIP number two: what kind of equipment is your photographer bringing? Some photographers are dependent on lighting equipment. They have not mastered shooting with natural light. Seriously, using three-point light creates fantastic portraits and that will work for your bridal or engagement session. But do you really want two-to-three people holding umbrella lights all around you all day long on your wedding day. I've seen it. The pictures are sweet, but your wedding day is a disaster.
INSIDER TIP number three: Is your photographer a trained ninja? The best photographers are invisible. Let's say, on your wedding night, you will be about to toss your bouquet and you'll stop and say, "Wait, where's my photographer?" And she coyly waves to you three feet away. She was right there all the time and you never even noticed. The best photographers will let you enjoy your day with your bridesmaids early on and your husband through the evening. You DO NOT want a photographer trying to choreograph your every move all day. And you don't need someone trying to be your best friend. Ever been to a restaurant where the waiter wants to be your buddy? I'm always like, "Dude. I'm here with my wife. We have a babysitter. Just keep my tea glass full and check-in occasionally. Thanks, bro." Some photographers want to be your best friend on wedding day. Maybe that's what you are looking for. But if not, it can be a pain in the ass. And speaking of ass. What if you hire a photographer who is one? Seriously! Let's say you hire a certain photographer because you love his images. But what if he is a world-class jerk? How much fun is your wedding day gonna be with this guy hanging around? And what if it's a triple whammy? I mean, he's an ass, he has a bunch of equipment in everyone's way, and he's always telling you what to do?
For years, I have told people, the second-most likely factor that could ruin your wedding is your photographer. Number one is your parents. But that is another chapter.
written by Keith C. Reagan, Sr.
QUESTIONS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
Do you work alone?
Do you bring a second shooter?
Is your second an actual professional photographer, or a trainee/intern?
Will your second/third be taking photos, or holding equipment?
What sort of lighting equipment do you use? Do you use stands and umbrellas that will be in my guests' way?
Are you subtle or invasive? Do you constantly direct the action or do you let me have my day and film it. Can you offer pointers and easy direction without creating delays?
Can you let me do our FIRST LOOK and CAKE CUTTING without talking to us?
Will you stop the action during the reception to check your light settings or can you adjust to changes quickly?