You may be wondering, what gives me the right to answer this question? Well, as you already know (I hope) that I have been a Wedding Photographer for the last 10 years and have shot hundreds of Wedding days. I know the ins and out of this industry. Plus, theses 8 steps for choosing your wedding photographer in 2019 when applied has given amazing results because it is based on solid principles. In fact, you can even use the same principles to choose any vendor for your wedding. Yes you heard me right, Just give it a try.
Ok, So let’s dive into the principles,
First, let’s consider what parameters are important for you when you are searching for your Wedding Photographer.
Is it based on the testimonials or referrals ?
Or, Is it based on the number of fans/followers that the wedding photographers have on their social media (typically Facebook & Instagram)
I think both these factors are important and perhaps both of them will influence most people, but these can also be easily manipulated if you don’t know how.
Let me explain
Testimonials and referrals can be influenced. You can get them by asking from friends, relatives, and even people you hardly know. Do you know testimonials can also be given by non clients. There is nothing wrong with this except you will not be able to tell if the person has actually experienced the service in totality. In a situation like this it’s not enough to just go by Testimonials. Referrals are better because you know the person who has referred. However, referrals need to be validated. Moreover, a referral alone will not help unless the person referring has the same style and sensibility like you.
Number of fans on Facebook and Instagram is also not the right yardstick because I have seen many photographers get zillions of facebook/instagram followers in a very short time by advertising specifically on Facebook for getting more likes. That’s right, you pay facebook and they will help you get fans instantly. Its an open secret.
So what do you do?
Let me share with you my 8 step formula that I give all my clients. I am sharing these straight from my upcoming book (Eternal Moments : How to get photographed for your wedding )
So here it is,
You really need a SUPERMAN ( or woman) wedding photographer. Yes its an acronym. Let’s see what it means.
S=Style, U=Understands you, P= Personality, E=Experience, R= Reputation, M= Money, A=Attitude, N=Niche.
Step 1 : Style
First thing is to do is to find out what style of Wedding Photography resonates with you the most? My job here is to give you all the options so you can easily decide for yourself what you want. I know we have covered this in our last Blog when we covered what style resonates with you. Most of the times when I meet with potential clients, they say the same thing. They want Natural, Un-posed Images of their Wedding. They want a Wedding Photographer who isn't going to interrupt the natural flow of the day. The good news is, many Wedding Photographers are moving towards this kind of Wedding Photography. I personally like to use a combination of Photojournalism and Fashion in my photography. I know there is nothing worse than being poked and prodded and posed all day while you forget to enjoy your day and just go through the motions. So start looking up the Websites, FB pages of the Photographers that you like.
There are 3 major types of wedding photography styles. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages
1. Documentary/Photo journalistic Style:
Here the Photographer documents the Wedding day without interfering in any way. He/She will take your pictures as they happen and these will be completely Un-posed.
Advantage : These pictures are authentic and real. You can go about enjoying your day while your photographer captures the moments unobtrusively.
Disadvantage: It may not necessarily make every single photos from your wedding look picture perfect. It may even shock some couples to see themselves in awkward candid moments.
2. Completely Posed (Traditional) :
Here the photographer takes complete charge of the wedding. He/She will make you do all the silly things and ensure that you are smiling in every single photo.
Advantage : You get all the shots in your checklist. Nothing is missed
Disadvantage : The photos are un-real and super boring. The photographer makes it embarrassing for you to enjoy your day. You come out of your wedding feeling tired and stressed.
3. Blended Approach:
Here the photographer mixes different photography styles depending upon the requirement. I personally love this approach and this is what I follow. I use a combination of fashion photography, documentary and portraiture in my wedding photography. The results I have got are amazing. I use a documentary style approach during the wedding ceremony, sangeet, and for the reception. But, I also get my couples to pose(10–20%). This is typically for the couple shoot and the family portraits. I do this because most of couples find it very awkward to be in front of the camera and without a little direction they get nervous and anxious.
Disadvantage : Not that i can think about.
Advantage : You get the best of both worlds. You get exactly what you want. You love the experience and remember your wedding day in all its glory
Step 2 : Understands You
This is crucial because your wedding photographer has to understand what you want from your wedding. He/She should be able to translate your vision into a wedding story. This off-course needs you to have a 1–1 interaction with the shortlisted photographers. I would recommend that once you have initially shortlisted the photographers on the basis of their style, reputation, experience, availability and investment only then start engaging with them 1–1. This will ensure thats you get to choose from the right set of photographers without wasting your time on the ones who are a bad fit.
Step 3 : Personality
A wedding photographers personality is extremely important. A wedding photographer can either add to your overall experience or can reduce it to a bad memory. There are photographers who shout and direct people in the hope of getting the perfect exposure all the time. The couples end up getting technically correct pictures which are lifeless and boring. This excessive controlling personality trait ends up ruining the day for most couples. On the other extreme there are also wedding photographers who are so reserved and introverted that they prefer to hide behind their camera all day. They don’t not interact with the couples or their guests. They prefer to just take the pictures without trying to evoke the emotions. This in my opinion is not good either because weddings are a family affair and unless a photographer is not immersed in it at different levels they will not be able to get the stunning moments. I believe its the photographers to educate and translate the vision of the couples into a beautiful story. A good photographer should blend in with the guests and when needed take change his approach to capture the magic. As easy as it seems, this approach requires a warm, assertive and people centered personality.
Step 4 : Experience
These days anyone with a camera calls themselves a photographer. Since wedding photography is lucrative, it becomes a natural choice for most aspiring photographers to dive into this genre. Soon these photographers realize wedding photography is not as easy and lucrative as it seems from the outside. This is why having an experienced wedding photographer is very important. After all, you don’t want to trust your life long memories with someone who isn’t a master of their craft. I know there will be people who say talent is more important than experience but I can tell you that talent is highly overrated. It takes commitment and years of consistent hard work to develop into a good wedding photographer. I have seen many talented photographers wilt under the pressure of wedding photography and after a very promising start, they just faded away into the oblivion.
Step 5 : Reputation
Every single business protects their reputation fiercely. They know that if they do not serve and delight every single customer their reputation is at stake. So you should try and check from multiple sources about the reputation of the wedding photographer. If the photographer is good then they will likely have a positive word of mouth from all across.
Step 6 : Money
I’d like to call it your Investment because out of all the things that you spend in your wedding, the only thing that grows in value are your photographs. All the above pointers that we have discussed previously will hold good only if the photographer fits into your budget. However, it’s also important to compare what each photographer is actually offering and then decide for yourself if you are getting the best bang for your buck.
Ok so how much should you pay to your wedding photographer. I'll cover this in detail in another Blog, but I want you to consider what impact the pictures are going to make for your wedding. I would suggest you look at the lifetime value of these images and then decide for yourself how much you should be investing.
Asking good questions will lead you to good answers, Instead of asking why is wedding photography expensive, ask yourself the below questions:
“Why is the cheap wedding photography, cheap?”
* What corners are they cutting?
* Are they using the right equipment?
* How much experience do they have?
In the end, it is your wedding day, and you should go with what you feel is right for you. Remember, hiring a photographer is not a purchase, it’s an investment. As with any kind of investment, you get what you pay for! When the honeymoon’s over, your photographs are all you’ll have left to remind you of your special day.
You need to ask yourself “How important are memories of your wedding to you and your family?”
Step 7: Attitude
A photographers attitude is extremely important. They should be flexible and accommodating since every plan that you make may need to be tweaked and changed according to the situation. So, if you hire someone who is complaining and wants perfection then you have a extra (unwanted) problem to deal with.
Step 8 : Niche
If you have a toothache, what would you do? Visit a dentist or a general physician? Similarly, the wedding photographer you hire should be a specialist of weddings and portraits. There are photographers who do all kinds of photography. They will shoot anything and everything. In my opinion the best wedding photographers are focused because It takes a lot of time and experience to get good in a one thing.
You need a Wedding photographer who is a SUPERMAN (or Woman)
You have to like their Style, ensure that they understand what you want, have a personality that is warm and friendly, Have tons of Experience and a good Reputation. Fits your budget (even if it’s stretched a bit), Have the right attitude and are focused on only the wedding and portrait niche of photography.