Updated: Oct 21, 2019
When I was about to get married, I was probably like most young brides – doing my best to stay afloat financially. I was in grad school and my husband-to-be was in the Navy. We were able to support ourselves without borrowing money from Mom and Dad, but we didn’t exactly have a lot of extra cash at our command.
Also, like most young couples planning to get married, neither of us came from a very wealthy family. Our parents were by no means poor, but they also weren’t able to provide us with an unlimited budget for our wedding. Part of the deal was that we were responsible for paying for the photographer, the theory being that we could go as fancy or minimal as we wanted.
Of course, like most broke 24-year olds, we looked around to try to get the most we could for the least amount of money. My aunt knew a photographer, we met with him, he offered us a deal, and we took it because it fell within our budget. With fifteen years hindsight, I really wish we had approached the whole process with a different mind-set.
Don’t get me wrong. I still smile when I see my wedding pictures. They still bring back the memories of that day. If you are happily married, any pictures of your wedding will do that. But I don’t have an album. I don’t have any black and white photos. All of my pictures, other than the enlargements, are in a plain 5x5 proof album. They were all shot with film (2004). They just aren’t representative of mine style, unique perspective, or the feelings of that day.
As someone who now photographs weddings professionally, I feel that it is my duty to do more than just snap some photos for you. It is my job to provide you with the information and support to make sure that you hire the right photographer, and if that photographer is me, to provide you with the kind of pictures that will always make you remember your wedding – not just what it looked like, but also how it felt. So, with all that being said, here is what I think every bride needs to know about choosing a wedding photographer.
1. Think of your wedding pictures as an investment.
I remember when I first got engaged, I thought I already knew who I wanted my wedding photographer to be. And then I found out his packages started at $4000. Ok, time for plan B. While there was probably no need to spend $4000 on a wedding photographer (part of why I started shooting weddings was to provide fabulous affordable photography), I should have also considered the age-old adage handed down through the years: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Keeping this in mind, most photographers that are worth what they charge are also willing to negotiate on some issues in order to earn your business. Be upfront about your budget and your needs, however, if you really like their work, and their bid comes in close to your budget, consider this: the flowers will die, the food and cake will be eaten, and all you have left of them is the pictures. Is it possible to scrimp a little from the other budgets to increase your photography budget?
2. Interview at least 2-3 photographers before making a decision, keeping in mind who you are, both as individuals and as a couple.
Photography is a very personal thing. There are so many different styles, and not every photographer is for every client. Do you like traditional photos, or are you more into a stylistic approach? Do you want photos that show what happened, event by event, or are you more interested in a story book, one that tells all about your special day? What about color? Do you like it, or do you prefer black and white? The other thing you need to remember is this: you will be sharing just about every aspect of your special day with your photographer - you need to find someone you feel comfortable with.
3. Know the logistics of your wedding and what you really need.
How large is your wedding going to be? Is it going to be an intimate affair with a few special guests, or is it going to be a blow-out party with everyone you (and your parents) have ever met? Is it going to be in a Church, inside, outside? What about the reception - is it going to be at the same place as your ceremony? How big is your wedding party? Will everyone be getting ready together at the same place? All of these things may seem irrelevant to photography, however it is important for your prospective photographer(s) to know. The size and location of your wedding determines a lot of things - if you want "pre-wedding" photos of both bride and groom, and you are not getting ready at the same location, you need two photographers. If you are getting married inside, with an indoor reception, you don't want a photographer who is only comfortable working with natural (outdoor) lighting.
4. Be prepared.
Once you have decided on the right photographer, don't wait to talk to them again until the day of your wedding. If possible, schedule a test shoot (usually engagement photos). When planning your wedding day, think ahead, about what you want to see when you look back at your pictures - do you have a special friend coming from out of town that you want a picture with? Do you both ride motorcycles and want a picture with one of your bikes? What about family portraits - can mom and dad be in the same picture? Make a list ahead of time, of all your "must-have" shots. Make sure your photographer has this list. While your photographer will certainly know some of the must-haves (first dance, cake cutting, etc) it is up to you to make sure that all of the pictures that are important to you are taken, and the best way to do that is to communicate with your photographer. A good photographer will want to meet with you prior to your wedding and want to know about who you are.
Had anyone shared the above information with me, I probably would have handled my own wedding photography completely differently. Above all, I hope that you have found this helpful. Even if you choose to hire a photographer other than myself, I feel that I have at least done my job in giving you some direction and hopefully alleviating some of the stress that comes along with wedding planning.
Congratulations on your Engagement. I wish you a wonderful Wedding Day and a joyous Ever-After.
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