May 20, 2016

Seven Things I Learned After Seven Years Of Being a Wedding Photographer About Hiring My Own Wedding Photographer

Being in the wedding industry and recently married myself, I tend to get asked how I chose my own wedding photographer for my wedding. So in efforts of full transparency I decided to put together a post on some of my thoughts regarding the matter. I hope this helps you in your planning journey and please feel free to reach out with any questions or if you just want to talk it through!
Firstly, the Number one question you should always be asking yourself is always going to be “How do the images make you FEEL?”
Do they evoke anything inside of you?
Do you want to see yourself in those images?
If the answer to those questions is an un-resounding YES then I move us to the more logistical of the questions that I found needed to be addressed when I was looking for a wedding photographer.
Even though I knew I was interested in hiring Justin&Mary I’ve had some inquiries on what exactly brought me to that conclusion so here is the breakdown step by step.
If you are in the market for any professional photographer which I gauge to be in the price range of $3,000 and upwards for a wedding day package, this is for you guys!
1. Does this person have an online presence? 
In my opinion, this is the first step in looking at important elements of what would create trust and build confidence in telling me that this photographer is amazing.
At one point in time photographers had to go around with printed books to show their work. Before that it was just anyone who knew how to work a camera or operate a studio! We live in an incredible timeframe of history that allows us the capacity for greatness through social. The possibility of researching, searching, viewing and booking a photographer entirely online is real and is happening. That being said, if you want me to trust you online there needs to be some sort of social media presence. It shows that the photographer cares enough about their business as well as their future clients to showcase a seamless web experience – something that can be a link to who this photographer is and how they work. It simply displays the first step in effort on the part of the photographer. I believe this is important because you want the person you hire for your wedding day to care about what they are doing.
2. If so what does it look like? 
The way the website is configured and displayed is an important aspect of finding potential vendors. Is it easy to transition from page to page? Does the copy make sense? Are there images of the photographer? If so are they clear and professionally taken? I think this all ties into how much one cares about the information that they are exhibiting. The more they care, the more organized their website will look and inevitably the better overall service and product you will receive. Also the more social sites the have, the better. Instagram? Twitter? Even Snapchat? This tells me that this person not only cares about what they are doing but is wholly invested in it. They are spending time working on accounts across several platforms and from personal experience it’s quite time consuming! Its definitely a plus if I can interact with my photographer and they are engaging me as an audience, client and friend. I enjoy being a small part of your milestones and thoughts that are shared through social outlets just as I’m inviting you into my life and family by hiring you for my wedding day.
3. Does this person have reviews from past clients? 
Ok this one is VERY important. Look for reviews for the photographers that you’re considering. This is the number one factor that will give validation to hiring a complete stranger for one of the biggest event days of your life! This will show you that other folks have in fact hired this photographer, and have been pleased with the outcome! If a photographer has no reviews there could be a few reasons for this :
A. The photographer is brand new to the business. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we all begin somewhere. In my opinion hiring a newbie photographer is great if you like the imagery that you see from them, trust them from another source (i.e a friend’s referral) or have made a personal connection with them. If you’re trying to just save money I would attempt at working out a smaller or alternative package with a verified photographer as opposed to using someone who seems like they just dropped in from out of nowhere. Personally, I would much rather have someone working with me for five hours who has shot hundreds of wedding as opposed to ten hours but has only done one or two – but that’s just me! I would nonetheless be wary of a business with no reviews whatsoever.
B. Maybe they’re not new to the game but they are new to social media. This comes back to being relevant in your space and timeframe. Nowadays it is important to be on the same playing field as your clients. They want to look for you in the spaces that are comfortable to them ..(i.e on their phones at 4am when they can’t sleep). It’s important to deliver a sense of trust alongside the work. Part of that trust comes from reviews. I want my photographer to care about how I trust them and part of fostering that relationship is what they put out for me to see. If they’re new to social media try and verify them in another way such as personal validations that they may have. Regardlesss, I would also be wary of this instance as well.
C. Maybe they’ve had tons of clients but most of them are too busy to leave a review. Ok so this one is the only example in which I think a “no reviews” situation could be possible. I definitely understand that everyone has a busy lifestyle. If this is the case maybe there are other comments or shares that you’ve seen from the clients of this photographer? Pop them into a hashtag search- see who might be sharing the images. Are their clients sharing them? Did they write a nice comment on any of the photographers posts? Are they interacting post wedding with the photographer? These are normally positive signs that the clients are happy with their images and I would consider these to be an acceptable alternative in place of a review.
Nonetheless, there is nothing like reading it first hand for yourself from a client that was so happy they felt the urge to write it down.
4. Does this person have any awards, accolades or work published? 
This question is again, up for debate in relevance but to me it is an extremely important aspect of what I’m looking at when looking at photographers to potentially hire. I think it plays into the care of a photographer’s craft and wanting to be a part of their professional creative community. I akin it to going to the company retreat or the holiday party with your coworkers- it may not be the first item on your agenda but it shows that you are a working part of a community and I think that is important when choosing a well rounded photographer.
5. Is this person responsive to your emails? 
This may seem like a question that would have most of you face-palming – “Duh I need them to respond”- but let me explain further.
When planning a wedding, communication between your vendors is key. It will help the entirett of the day run all that much smoother. think communication is key when planning a wedding and it’s important to have someone who responds in 72 hours or less. I give that timeframe because as photographers we sometimes work Friday-Monday without a break and email can be the last thing on our minds- so I give us some leeway on that end of the spectrum. But I still think staying in touch is of pretty high priority. This is one of the reasons I think choosing a professional photographer versus a hobby or newbie is important because they know how many weddings they can take on. They already know the type of attention they want to give to their clients. They are aware of the intricacies of the relationship. They have done this more than likely hundreds of times. As a client I wouldn’t want to feel like just another number on their roster. Personally I get pretty attached to my clients, becoming friends on social media – staying in touch if they need anything.
6. Does this person have work from different shoots in different seasons, locations, etc? 

This is an important question to ask yourself because you want to be sure the photographer that you’re hiring has been through it all- bright sunshine, snowstorms, downpours, ballrooms, barns, different lighting situations, etc. As a professional photographer you are able to walk into any situation assess the light and find or create the most beautiful option. This comes from years of experience and moreover, number of events shot. A good rule of thumb is anywhere over 75-100 is what a full time professional will most likely have completed. This isn’t to say those who have shot less are less than- I just feel that when you are investing 3k-8k on a wedding package (which is the average market range for most mid-level full time professionals) you should make sure the person you choose is legitimate.

7. Is this person willing to show you full weddings? 

I think this one is incredibly important in the decision making process. You want to be able to see a full wedding day from start to finish- and possibly more than one to show consistency. As a client I want to see all parts of the day- and furthermore what is actually being delivered- not just the polished shots for social media. I think the more transparent the better when it comes to bookings and I personally as a client would want to see what your family portraits would look like, what your cocktail hour images consist of, how you shoot your ceremonies. This leaves no room for any surprises down the line and the closer you are to knowing what you’d be getting the happier you will be with the final result.

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