WRITTEN BY: Jessica Burke
YOUR WEDDING DAY WILL GO BY IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE. ALL THE months of planning will, in just a few short hours, be nothing more than a memory. It’s important to document your wedding day from the big “I do” to the smallest detail. Finding the right photographer and videographer to capture your wedding is important. Read that twice, then read on.
Quality photographers and videographers are not inexpensive and may be your biggest expense after your reception venue. However, unlike many of your other wedding purchases, photography and video have longevity. Your wedding album and video will help you treasure and relive those special moments. Don’t entrust this once in a lifetime occasion to just anyone!
Ask any couple who’s tied the knot already and they’ll probably tell you that photography and video is the last thing you want to “cut corners on” for your big day. These are your memories and the only thing you’ll have left to remember the day by. “This is one of the most important days of your life. Even if you are shy about being on video, think about the future and how your kids and grandkids will be able to see the memories from your day,” says LaVina Bostock of Your Day Video Production.
Hiring someone to capture your wedding memories strictly on price is never a good idea. “The old ‘You get what you pay for’ applies here,” says Bostock.
It’s important to find pros who specialize in weddings and have beautiful portfolios. Wedding photographers and videographers have to be more than fine artists though. They have to manage wedding logistics and know the traditions and order of events. With experience comes knowledge. Quality wedding pros know which shots are important and how to capture them. Find out how long your prospects have been capturing weddings and if your wedding involves cultural customs, be sure to make them aware of these in advance.
research + book your wedding and video photography early.
The best pros fill their calendars a year or more in advance, so start looking early.
Browse through Instagram, blogs and websites to get a feel for the type of photography and video that you like.
“There are so many options and styles for photography,” says Sandra O’Claire of Eau Claire Photographics. “Find the photography style that you keep looking at over and over, and speaks to you.”
Photographer Sidney Donaldson agrees, “There are so many different styles of photography now, that choosing can sometimes be overwhelming. I always suggest choosing a photographer that fits your personality as well as the style of photos you like. You don’t want to hire a photojournalistic photographer if you love editorial style photos.”
Once you have a feel for your style preference, it is important you book a photographer and videographer whose portfolio shows work in that style.
To help narrow down your prospects, Sarah Alleman of Sarah Alleman Photography advises couples to dig even deeper. “Look at editing styles,” she suggests. “And ask to see a few full galleries. Anyone can take a few epic photos but look at how they document the whole day.”
When you ask for complete wedding galleries and sample videos, request to see weddings at your location (or one similar) that’s at roughly the same time your wedding will be so you can get a feel for what their work will look like.
“When looking at videographers’ portfolios, look at many of their videos,” says Bostock. “If you are having a church wedding, make sure you see a video that they have shot in a church. If your wedding is at night outside, then make sure you see a video from outside at night. A professional videographer will have shot in all types of situations and will be able to show you videos from those scenarios.”
Identify three to five pros whose work appeals to you and make appointments to meet them in person (or in a video chat) before you book. Here’s why….
Your photographer’s interpersonal skills are as important as their technical knowledge and years of experience. “Ask the little questions,” says O’Claire, “Like why they love doing what they do. It will really help you get to know your photographer and their personality to see if it clicks with yours which is so important on the wedding day.”
Photographer Andrew Alwert advises couples to look beyond a pretty Instagram profile or website. “Shooting good photos today has become so easy with digital cameras,” he says. “The magic to a true professional is experience, guidance and trust. When choosing a wedding photographer, get them on a phone call asap. Allow them to share their experience and knowledge of timeline and execution.”
As you interview your potential candidates, carefully look at their portfolio. If you make an emotional connection and you like their energy, then you have probably found “the one.” If you find yourself thinking, “I really wish they did more (or less) of this or that,” or “gosh, they’re pushy” then it may be best to move on.
get it in writing.
You should expect your wedding pros to provide detailed information. Most have contracts that can be sent to you for review. Read them and make sure you understand what you’re signing.
Your contract should include information about retainers, cancellations, refunds and turnaround time.
Ask lots of questions about what is included and what extra costs there might be. There are no wrong answers, but you should be aware of what you’re getting before you sign any contracts.
For photography, you should ask how many photos you should expect to receive and if your package includes albums, prints or digital files. Every photographer is different, so there is no correct answer, but do ask for pricing for items not included in your package.
For video, you will want to ask how long the edited video will be and how it will be edited. “Some companies only give a short highlight video which would be anywhere around 5 to 30 minutes and others give the long feature length video which usually includes the full ceremony as it happened and all the footage captured at the reception,” says Bostock. “Either type of video style is great, it’s what you would prefer.”
don’t delay your decision.
After interviewing the pros on your list, it is important to secure your favorite with a retainer. Don’t expect anyone to hold a date without a retainer and remember if you wait too long to make your decision, you could lose your first choice. Always get a contract and sign and return this with your retainer payment. This contract should include the pricing and what is included with your package. Detailed documentation will avoid future frustration!
manage your expectations.
Ask how much is required to properly document your day and resist the urge to underestimate how long tasks will take so you can cut down coverage time. This never goes well.
“Remember everything takes time (walking, touching up your lipstick, etc) and no one enjoys feeling rushed,” says Alleman. “Also the organic moments can sometimes be better than the planned ones. I encourage my couples to look at the timeline as a way for us to make sure I know what is most important to them and we have ample time to capture everything.”
Photographers Alyse & Ben advise prospective wedding clients, “Allow space in your wedding day for the two of you to take it all in – each other and what this day signifies. Whether that be a first look, reading private vows, or just-married portraits in dreamy light. These are often our couples’ favorite photographs!”
Be sure you understand your venue’s photography and video restrictions. Many churches and synagogues do not allow flash photography and many do not permit movement during the ceremony. A few don’t allow photography or video at all! Know what to expect.
A typical assumption is that the person you meet with is the one who will be capturing your wedding. Never make assumptions!
“Beware, there are some nationally owned companies that advertise in local markets and then hire videographers to do the wedding,” says Bostock. The same can be said for photography.
Always ask who will be showing up on your wedding day. And while you’re at it, ask about backup plans. Obviously, no one ever plans to become sick or get in an accident, but a pro should have a backup plan in the event that they can’t make it to your wedding. Ask what that backup plan is. There IS a correct answer here and it’s not “We’ll figure it out if we have to.” Read THAT twice.
Every company has a different process for post production and editing. Editing your wedding photos and video is an art and the artists need time to complete their process. Some may have sneak peeks ready for you within a week of your wedding, while others may require several months before you see a single frame. Know what to expect and try not to become impatient.
Of course, you should expect to receive your finished product when promised or at least receive communication if there have been unexpected delays like family emergencies.
Always ask if you receive the digital negatives from your photos. Some photographers include this in your package, others offer them at an additional cost and some do not offer them at all. Know your photographer’s policy.
If you will receive digital files, ask your photographer where they recommend having them printed – not all photo printing companies are created equal.
Most wedding pros require that your balance be paid in full prior to the wedding, usually several weeks before. This is completely normal and should be expected. If the thought of paying upfront before receiving anything makes you nervous, ask for past client references to call. If you’re nervous about having someone running off with your money, think twice about hiring that company.
You should never hire someone you don’t trust.
Knowing what to expect can relieve a world of stress. Hire a seasoned professional whose work you love and enjoy your wedding day!
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