A few weeks ago I created a packet for interested brides. In the packet I created a few tip sheets. This is from my tips on booking a wedding photographer. Choosing a photographer can be a daunting task. To make matters worse, there are a lot of ‘photographers’ out there who think they have a "professional camera" and think, because of this, they can shoot weddings, or anything else professionally. This is totally not true. That’s like saying, I have paint and a paint brush, that means I can paint like Da Vinci. Well, I’m a terrible painter, and I would never try to pass myself off as one, nor would I try to book commissioned work. A true professional photographer has worked for years perfecting their craft to be able to shoot your wedding. Wedding photography has become a ‘buyer beware’ industry. Below are tips to help you find the best photographers, and avoid disappointment or worse.
1. Experience Ask the photographer how long he/she has been shooting weddings. Ask how many weddings they have shot by themselves. If they haven’t been shooting weddings for very long, or they don’t have at least 20 weddings under their belt as the main photographer, you should be very cautious.
2. Their Work Web sites are great. The problem is photographers have had issues with people stealing their online images and posting them to their sites for years. The good news is, those online images will not print very well, so you can validate a photographers work by looking at printed images. Make sure you meet with your potential photographer and view full albums of weddings. Two or three albums should give you a pretty good idea of their talent and skill. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for access to a few online wedding proofs. Keep in mind that those images are the photographer’s proofs, and not the final product. In looking at the proofs, look to see if the images are properly exposed, that they are not too dark or too bright. Also, check the color. Does everyone look natural? Light skinned subjects should not look orange or blue or "washed out", and dark skinned subjects should not be too dark. You should be able to see definition in the face. This might sound silly, but skin tone is one of the most challenging things to master in digital photography. Another red flag that many people are not aware of is a lot of black and white images. This could indicate that the photographer is trying to hide poor exposure or color. It’s a trick we all use when we like an image, but something was off, like the flash didn’t fire or the camera didn’t focus properly. This is fine with a hand full of images, but if you notice a very high percentage of images are black and white, be careful.
3. Referrals Ask all of your potential photographers for referrals. If they hesitate, run. A real professional photographer will be happy to give you referrals. Make sure it’s a good amount too, and don’t be afraid to ask to see their wedding photos. I typically give 3-4 referrals when asked.
4. Equipment Equipment is very important. While just having a great camera will not make you a great photographer, a great photographer with poor equipment is limited as to what they can capture. A slow flash can miss split second moments. And if the camera breaks during the wedding, even the best photographer is out of luck. You should ask what equipment they have. The brand of the equipment isn’t important. What you want to make sure of is the camera is pro rated by the brand they use. For example, I shoot with Nikon. Nikon’s pro rated cameras are the D300, D300s, D700, D3, D3s, and D3x. A Nikon pro should be shooting with one of these cameras. Even more important are the lenses. Lenses have what is called an f/stop number. The lower that number the better the lens, and it will shoot in lower light, which is vitally important for weddings. A pro should not have a lens that has an f/stop higher than 2.8. If they are using lenses that have an f/stop of 3.5-5, they shouldn’t be shooting weddings. I shoot with Nikon’s best lenses. The f/stop on my lenses range from 1.4 - 2.8. A pro must have at least one back up camera as well. Things happen, and all it takes is a drop. Make sure your potential photographer has back up equipment! For me this would be a deal breaker. No real pro would only have one camera.
I hope these 4 points help you on your photographer search, and helps you avoid a very bad situation. Your wedding photos will be some of your most cherished possessions, and your wedding album will be your first family heirloom. Make sure you invest in the quality you and your wedding deserve. One more thing, ask how the photographer will dress. You would think this would be common sense, but I have heard of photographers showing up in jeans. I’ve seen videographers do the same.