How to Choose a Photographer

Well hello there, this is my first official blog post. I decided on the topic of ‘how to choose a wedding photographer’ because it is a question bound to come up in the minds of every engaged couple.

Why should you trust me? To start, I am a wedding photographer. I know about the ins and outs of covering your big day. But, just because I call myself a professional wedding photographer doesn’t mean I have the skills or experience necessary to ensure your day isn’t a disaster.

Big Cedar Lodge Branson Elopement Photography

I also know a thing or two about being behind the camera as well as knowing what gear helps make a photographer “professional.”

You could argue gear doesn’t make someone a professional. An amateur with a high-end camera might do worse than a professional with an entry-level camera. True… but let me ask you this: what happens when your photographer drops his or her camera the moment before you say your I do’s; what happens when the lighting in your venue is less than ideal; what happens when the photographer’s computer crashes along with all your wedding photos? Situations like these do happen and can’t always be prevented, but only a professional will know how to react and have the gear necessary to adapt to the unfortunate occurrences.

In addition to being a full time photographer, I work at a camera rental shop. Every day,I have someone looking for gear because they just booked their first wedding. Typically, they are doing a favor for a friend who knew they had a nice camera. That was their friend’s only consideration when offering them the job. The photographer has no idea where to start. All they have ever shot with is a five-year-old $300 camera with a kit lens.

I know most of you will probably skip through the intro…i always do when reading a blog. I just thought I should give some background as to where I am coming from. Now, on to the list.

1. Ask about gear! 

I mentioned this in great detail in my introduction. Gear is what separates true professionals from amateurs. Sure, an amateur can have professional gear, but it is very unlikely someone will invest that much  without knowing its value.

Ask if the photographer has a full frame or cropped sensor camera. You might not know what this means, but they sure as hell should.

Ask if they have a back up body. Accidents happen and it would suck if their one and only camera gave up on your big day. Better yet, ask how they handle dropped or broken gear.

Ask about lens selection. A wedding simply cannot be shot with one lens. They need a macro for close up ring pictures. They need a portrait lens for bridal pictures. They need a telephoto to capture the ceremony. They need a wide angle to capture the venue. On occasion, one lens might work for multiple type of shots, but one lens can’t cover it all.

Along the same lines, ask about quality of glass. If they shoot Canon, ask if they have L series glass. If they shoot Nikon, ask if their glass is nanocrystal coated. If they have Sony, don’t talk to them. Just kidding, but make sure they have Zeiss glass. High quality glass helps with sharpness and it would be rare to find a pro without a couple high end lenses.

Ask about insurance! Yeah, technically insurance isn’t considered gear, but it’s necessary for any professional to have. If the photographer doesn’t have insurance, ask what will happen if someone is accidentally injured while trying to capture a shot. Occurrences like this are rare, but they do happen. Photographers oftentimes climb on chairs or unstable objects to get the perfect shot. What would happen if they fall on your grandmother? Liability insurance starts to come in handy.

Ask about backups! What happens if their hard drive crashes along with all your wedding pictures? That wouldn’t be a problem if they are very careful to backup in multiple locations. Or, what happens if their memory card is corrupted before they even have a chance to back up the files? Each photographer works differently. Some use several different memory cards, so they will never lose an entire wedding if one crashes. Some photographers record to multiple cards at the same time. Some photographers bring their computers to back up during downtime. Ask how your photographer works!

2. Ask about experience!

Unless you’re paying practically nothing for your photographer, you want someone with experience. Sorry to say, but all the talent in the world can’t make up for lack of experience. Weddings require time and effort. If your photographer has never shot a wedding before, they might not know exactly where to stand to capture your perfect first kiss shot. Bridal party photos have do-overs, but they only have one shot to capture your first moment as husband and wife.

On the other hand, experience isn’t everything. You don’t need to pay a few grand for someone who has booked a wedding every weekend for the last 10 years. A couple weddings and a brilliant photographic eye will suffice. Everyone needs to start somewhere, so no fear if your photographer doesn’t have a dozen weddings under their belt.

Ask if your photographer has ever been a second shooter at a wedding. Second shooters learn fast and are usually partnered with the best lead shooter. If your photographer has second shot a few weddings, that experience will do. More experience is always better, but  less experienced photographers tend to be more budget friendly.

To summarize, ask about experience, but if your photographer doesn’t have a portfolio jam-packed with images, it is ok. Any wedding experience counts. It is up to you and your budget to decide how much experience you are looking for.

3. Ask about style!

Every photographer has their own style. Carefully look at their past work to notice trends. Does your photographer have a specific angle of view shown frequently in their work? Some photographers really love tilting the camera sideways. Some clients hate this look. I tend to shoot some photos sideways, but the majority straight. I feel like it gives the images a unique feel. What do you think?  

Does your photographer focus on details? Some photographers focus more on details while others prefer to get a person in every shot. If you spend a fortune on the decorations, you’ll want someone who can properly capture them. Personally, I am not a fan of detail shots. They bore me. Shots of people are way more entertaining. Of course I still take detailed shots, but don’t spend quite as much time on it as some photographers. Ask how much time your photographer typically spends on the details.

Is your photographer black and white crazy? I don’t get it, but some absolutely love black and white. Some go so far as to turning the majority of photos into black and white images. I am a huge fan of colors. Colors make an image, but I am always sure to turn a couple images to black and white. If you particularly like this style, talk to your photographer. If you don’t, talk to your photographer.

How do you feel about retouching? This is an issue of particular importance to me because I hate when I see photographers completely airbrush their subjects. If you want every pore to disappear, look for a photographer with this style. Of course I do edit all my images, but I’m sure to leave the subject looking human. Look at the below image. Number 1 is unedited and number 5 is extensively edited. Her shape has changed and her skin is perfectly smooth. Which one do you like best? edits

Obviously some editing is good, but be sure to ask your photographer how they go about editing. Can they remove hair blocking someone’s face? Can they fix color inaccuracies? Can they fix shadows? Every photographer has different ways of going about this, so make sure you are happy with the way they do it.

Ledo-edit

Does your photographer approach weddings photo-journalistically? This means they focus more on candid moments and less on posed. I really hate having people smile at the camera. Those pictures are boring. Of course you need some stereotypical boring pictures, but candid pictures often times are much more meaningful. Ask your photographer which style they prefer and see if you feel the same way.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it… my two-cents on how to choose your wedding photographer. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. As always, if you are looking for a wedding photographer in the Kansas City area, feel free to check out my website contact me with any questions!

 

Big Cedar Lodge Branson Elopement Photography