Searching for a wedding photographer is hard work.
It seems that everyone’s a photographer these days, and all of them have multiple packages at multiple price points.
Unless you already know a professional photographer, then part of your wedding planning stress will involve choosing one photographer from the dozens, if not hundreds in your area.
Julie has gone through what you’re going through, and I asked her to share her journey. (answers edited only for clarity)
When did you start thinking about engagement/wedding photography?
About three months after being engaged. I wanted to secure a venue for the wedding since some book out over a year in advance and a photographer for a trial with engagement photos to take over the summer.
From a scale of 1-10, how important was photography on your wedding checklist?
8 – Very important for us.
We knew pictures were the lasting part of our wedding that we will forever look back upon, and wanted to put a good part of our budget towards it. Photos last forever.
Walk me through your process in selecting a photographer.
There were three stages we took for selecting a photographer.
First, we gathered a list of common vendors from the venues we were serious about in Asheville and Boone, opened the search with other vendors in the area from The Knot and Wedding Wire, and lastly followed up on friend recommendations.
Second, we explored the reviews and more so, put emphasis on the types of photos we saw on their website. Basically, wanted to see the journey we were about to take be captured.
Lastly, we then looked at pricing to see if they were in our budget. We searched for the pricing on the site or review website and calculated what it would be as a rough estimate based on our needs. We then scheduled phone calls with those who were in our top picks.
What were the big overall things you were looking for?
Specifically, we were looking for shots we could envision ourselves in with the mountain backdrop, first look, bride close ups, at the altar, dancing at the reception, and our exit. The big overall was that they were experienced with mountain weddings and could advise on places to go for great shots such as waterfalls and overlooks. Wanted to also make sure we felt comfortable with the photographers themselves since this would be our first experience getting professional photos taken of us.
What aspect of the photographer’s work were you looking for?
Hard to define it exactly – their capture of the looks the bride/groom gave each other and the melding of it with scenery since we wanted a destination mountain wedding. We liked the creativity of some shots as well and the excitement to try new things.
What aspect of the photographer’s personality were you looking for?
We were looking for someone who can put us at ease since we were so nervous, was confident in their craft, and had a good balance of giving direction and ideas with letting us do our own thing.
What were the challenges you faced in choosing a photographer?
Budget and destination were the main hurdles. We’d find someone nearby but the prices were much higher and weren’t flexible for negotiation, such as reducing hours, since we don’t need many of the reception and including engagement photos, etc. The location was a big one since some local in Raleigh required X per mile and a place to stay. On top of including food and a general off-site fee. Helped to have those options on the website as FAQs.
How did you overcome those challenges?
We found a vendor and they were just starting out and had great photos as well as had video footage. Though uncertain if they were in budget, we talked to them on the phone and they were genuinely interested in us as people and shared things about themselves too. They were flexible with pricing and asked what we envisioned and we were able to come to an understanding.
How important was price?
Honestly, we weren’t very educated on what was an average price. There aren’t great resources online and many were much higher than we actually put aside. After researching the venue area and collecting local Raleigh folks with added travel fees, we found our medium ground. We signed off on getting video a while back since we knew it would be out of budget but were able to find a solution with our photographers which had us open up our price range and they included engagement photos if we signed by X date. We almost doubled our budget after doing research and realizing the balance of quality with cost.
What were the factors that led you to choose the photographer you selected?
They were personable and understood how new we were to photography and the wedding business, knew that we were two hooligans trying to make this dream mountain wedding happen. They included two shooters and were flexible with negotiating time for photos with having half videography of the ceremony. They were also quick with returning emails and calls which some vendors weren’t.
What are things you know now that you wish you knew when starting the photography selection process?
I wish I knew the realistic price of having a wedding photographer and videographer. That there was some type of calculation you can type in for the region you live in and the budget you have. The Knot provides a good percentage calculator, however, our budget was so small that we increased that percentage since photography was such a high priority. I wish we were scared away by higher photographers in the beginning since we fell in love with our two, there was one other out of price range but whom had more experience and just breathtaking photos.
What would be your advice to brides currently searching for a wedding photographer?
I would advise that they realistically assess their budget and are honest with themselves as to how much they value great pictures and a good relationship with a photographer they wish to choose. It should be personal. They will be spending a lot of time with you and your partner. They should be understanding that it is a unique craft to what it is you wish to accomplish and your venue. I’d say by open minded and to trust the photographer’s input. That you should do a test engagement session before signing on and make sure that they are receptive to your ideas and responsive to your questions.