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NOW Planning Advice: Photography Matters

Black and white photo of bride on grand staircase by Amin Russell Photography
PHOTO: Amin Russell Photography

WRITTEN BY: Sofie Lechat

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 for your wedding is important. Read that twice, then read on.

Good professional photographers are not inexpensive and may be your biggest expense after your reception venue. However, unlike many of your other wedding purchases, photography has longevity. Good photographs will help you treasure and relive those special moments. Don’t entrust this once in a lifetime occasion to just anyone! 

Ask any past couple and they’ll tell you that photography is the last thing you want to “cut corners on” for your big day. 

Rena Sweeney, owner and lead event planner of Alchemy Events, gives her clients this advice: “Photography is the only place I suggest NOT starting with the budget,” she says. “Spend some time discovering what style of photography you love and then research what photographers in your preferred style charge and make your choices from there. I’d much rather see my clients trim their budgets elsewhere than not have great photographs.” 

It’s important to find a photographer who specializes in weddings and has a beautiful portfolio. Wedding photographers 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 photographers know which shots are important and how to capture them. Find out how long your photographer has been photographing weddings and if your wedding involves cultural customs, be sure to make your photographer aware of these in advance.

bride and groom embrace on the shoreline | photo by Sarah Alleman Photography
PHOTO: Sarah Alleman Photography

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research + book your wedding photography early.

The best photographers 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 you like. Are you attracted to more posed portraits or do the candid photos catch your eye? 

 

Once you have a feel for your style preference, it is important you book a photographer whose portfolio shows work in that style. But here’s the caveat. You also need to consider if the wedding YOU’RE planning matches your preferred photographer’s style. 

“I see it happen all the time,” says Sweeney. “Clients fall in love with a photographer’s style, but the wedding they are planning is not a match. It’s not realistic to expect someone who specializes in bright and airy, outdoor, daytime weddings to deliver the same results for a nighttime, indoor wedding. The circumstances are completely different and the photos will not look the same, through no fault of the photographer.”  

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, 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. 

Identify three to five photographers whose work appeals to you and make appointments to meet the photographers in person (or in a video chat) before you book. Here’s why….

personality matters.

Your photographer’s interpersonal skills are as important as their technical knowledge and years of experience. “Make sure that they understand and get your vision,” says Alleman. If you are uncomfortable with your photographer, or you’re just not on the same page, it will show in your pictures. Good rapport is key! 

As you interview your potentials, carefully look at their portfolio. If you make an emotional connection to a certain photographer’s images and you like their energy, then you have probably found your photographer. If you find yourself thinking, “I really wish they took more posed/candid photos,” or “gosh, they’re pushy” then it may be best to move on.

wedding first dance photo by Amin Russell Photography
PHOTO: Amin Russell Photography

get it in writing.

You should expect your photographer 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.

“Ask lots of questions and get quotes in writing,” advises Sweeney. “These should include information about deposits, cancellations, refunds and turnaround time.” 

Ask for details about purchasing prints, proofs, reprints and digital files or negatives. Find out if you’re paying for time, prints or both. There are no wrong answers, but you should be aware of what you’re getting before you sign any contracts.

bride and groom show off green wedding socks and shoes photo by Sarah Alleman Photography
PHOTO: Sarah Alleman Photography

don’t delay your decision.

After interviewing the photographers on your list, it is important to secure your favorite with a retainer. Photographers cannot hold a date without a retainer and if you wait too long to make your decision, you could lose your first choice. Always get a contract from your photographer detailing everything you’ve agreed to and sign and return this with your retainer payment. This contract should include the pricing and what is included with your photography package. Detailed documentation will avoid future frustrations!

manage your expectations.

Coverage times

Ask your potential photographers how much time they’ll need 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.”   

In addition, those beautifully styled images of your invitations, rings and other details (like your dress!) take time to create. “On average, it can take up to an hour on the wedding day to style and photograph the type of ‘flatlay’ images you see all over Instagram and wedding blogs,” says Alleman. 

If that’s something that’s important to you, you’ll need to build time in for your photographer to create those for you or you’ll have to sacrifice other coverage.

One thing Alleman suggests never cutting time for is couple portraits. “You will never regret spending time with your spouse,” she says. “You might feel guilty leaving your guests but they want the best for you and these photos are so important. The day goes by so quickly, and you’ll be thankful for the photos after.”

If you can do a First Look and build in time before your ceremony for couples photos, all the better! If not, take the time to do more than just one or two portraits after the ceremony. 

 

groom's gift bourbon bottle with wedding ring photo by sarah alleman photography
PHOTO: Sarah Alleman Photography

Venue Restrictions

Be sure you understand your venue’s photography restrictions. Many churches and synagogues do not allow flash photography and many do not permit the photographer to move around during the ceremony. A few don’t allow photography at all! Know what to expect. 

Your photographer may not be able to get all the photos on your wish list if they’re limited to staying at the back of the aisle for the entire ceremony.

“Obvious” Questions

A typical assumption is that the person you meet with is the one who will be photographing your wedding. Never make assumptions!

Always ask who your photographer will be. And while you’re at it, ask about backup plans. Obviously, no one ever plans to become sick or get in an accident, but your photographer should have a backup plan in the event that they can’t photograph 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.

Turnaround Time

Every photographer has a different process for post production and editing. Photography 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 two months (or more!) before you see a single photo. Know what to expect and try not to become impatient. 

Of course, you should expect to receive your photos when promised or at least receive communication from your photographer if there have been unexpected delays like family emergencies.

Bride at outdoor wedding setting photo by amin russell photography
PHOTO: Amin Russell Photography

Negative Talk

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.

Balancing Act

Most photographers 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 the photographer taking your money and running, think twice about hiring that photographer.

You should never hire someone you don’t trust.

Details, details.

Other questions to ask include:

How many photographs will I receive? 

Are there additional travel costs?

What types of proofs will I receive – online or printed? 

What is your cost and policy for adding more time?

How much are reprints?

Do you have an assistant or second photographer that will be at

my wedding? If not, how much is it to add one?

Knowing what to expect can relieve a world of stress. Hire a seasoned professional whose work you love and enjoy your wedding day!

Explore the NOW LIST Wedding Photographers

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