Planning a wedding can be overwhelming – I for one can completely identify with the feeling of not knowing where to start. After all, for most of us this is our first time! How are we to know how it all goes down? I felt especially overwhelmed when making the decision to hire our wedding photographer.
To me a wedding has 4 big components that can make or break the party: The venue, the food & drink, the music, and the photographer. Above all else, these are the four most important elements of a wedding (to me).
The venue sets the tone for the entire party. The way the room is set up or divided can make your wedding feel closed off or open and welcoming.
The food and drink? Important for obvious reasons. You may not remember what you served that day, given that you will have 1,000 other things on your mind, but your guests certainly want to enjoy the meal they are having. Skip the lousy banquet food and plan something that folks will actually savor. I also think, and I know not everyone will agree with me on this, it’s common courtesy to stock a quality open bar for guests, especially if you have guests traveling in from out of town. Why ask people to come all the way in for a party if you aren’t even going to host them well? Courtesy.
The music makes the party. A bad DJ can really clear a dance floor – we’ve all seen it happen. The cop and I’ve decided on a band and lots of oldies (that everyone likes) because my main goal is for guests to be up out of their seats dancing the night away.
The photographer is the one thing you’ll take away from your wedding night (besides the groom of course). The party will be wonderful, but you can bet that it’ll whiz by in a blur. Your photos will capture the special intimate moments of the day, and you’ll have them rest of your life. These are the pictures you’ll show your kids and your grand kids as you regale them with stories about the party of a lifetime.
So there you have it. My Big 4. From that little glimpse you can see how much pressure I put on the decision to choose the right photographer. And man are there a lot of things to consider. I poured over websites (remember we are doing all of this remotely) for days and weeks before even contacting photographers. And when I finally reached out to a few I tried to organize my questions and thoughts to learn as much about them as possible before narrowing down the list.
After all of that research, I’ve come to the conclusion that this decision will come down to two main elements:
Do you like the look and feel of their photos?
Do you like the photographer?
There are a million other hairy details that need to be asked (see that in my list of Questions to Ask your Wedding Photographer below), but when it comes down to it these are the most important two.
Do you like the look and feel of their photos? I saw so many wonderful galleries (I requested full galleries from a number of photographers – to see the full range and scope of a complete wedding package). I liked elements here and there from each of them – this photographer took great candid photos, but her formal family photos were stiff and unorganized. That photographer captures incredible party/dance moments, but their photography style is dark and moody. Pouring over gallery after gallery, I asked myself simply what I wanted my wedding photos to look like.
For me that list was:
- Bright, colorful and crisp images
- Great candids that make the subjects seem comfortable and natural (no stiff obviously posed shots)
- Organized family formal portraits (this was important to my mother)
- An overall editorial look
- As many photos as possible
Our photographer, the wonderful Mary Dougherty Photography, had literally every element I was looking for in her photos. They had an overall bright, clean and modern look. She seemed to take a variety of photos – accessory details, candids, staged group photos, formal portraits, family/guest photos at the reception, dancing pictures – you name it (meeting my as many photos as possible requirement). She also seemed to have that special knack of making each couples’ photos look different – as though they were tailored to the personality of the couple. To me that is huge! You see so many photographers that have the exact same staged bridal party photos in every wedding. I know there will be some staging and direction of how to stand when we take our group photos, but I also want to ensure that it feels natural and we’re having fun while we’re doing it! (especially because the cop is dreading the photo process).
Do you like the photographer? After doing a little research on my top 3 photographers (full wedding gallery, prices and packages overview, etc) I arranged phone calls with each of them. Ideally if you are in the same city (or nearby) I would 100% recommend meeting with your photographer in person; order coffee, look over their work and really take some time to learn their personality. Since we live 950 miles away we settled for a phone interview, which was good enough in this case. Not only is this your time to ask any questions you may have (see list below) but it’s also a time to just get to know them as a person and as a photographer. How long have they been doing this? What do they love about shooting weddings? What does a typical wedding day look like for them? Hearing our photographer talk about the reasons she loves her work was wonderful insight into why our wedding photos would be so special. It also gave me an idea of what she looks for, pays attention to and expects during the 10 hours she’ll be working with us. Once again: for most of us this is our first wedding. So it’s OK to admit you have no idea how things should go! Our photographer had so many tips (and I’m sure will have more as we get to know each other better) on things to look for, plan for and be mindful of before and on the day of the wedding. After talking with her for just under an hour, I knew that this was a person we’d love to have with us on the day of our wedding. And that is so important!
As promised, here is a list of the nitty gritty – Questions to Ask your Wedding Photographer. Use this as a reference when you meet with potential photographers. The one thing that I wish I had done before talking with our photographer was write out a list of what was important to me and the questions I had for her – our conversation would have been much more organized! As it was, I’m grateful our photographer had the patience to answer my many questions that kept popping up via email after we spoke. Learn from my mistake and plan ahead! Use this list of Questions to Ask your Wedding Photographer as a guide.
Download the Printable PDF: Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer here!
Happy Wedding planning!