Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How To Choose A Wedding Photographer

As a wedding planning newbie, I found that choosing a photographer was one of the most fun, but also one of the most time consuming parts of the process so far. What we did know from the get-go was that we didn't want a lot of overly posed photos, but rather a natural documentation of the day and a photographer that would really tell that story. As I mentioned in my last planning update, we went with the amazing Jacob of Brumley and Wells as our photographer, but I am going to break the whole process down as to how we go there, because that's what it really was, a process. Many of you may already be married and so this post may be totally irrelevant, but for any readers out there that aren't, my hope is that someday this is a teensy bit helpful to you. Because it's it's what I wish I already read and knew before we started the search.

Here were the most important factors we considered:

1. Availability 
Don't get your heart set on a specific photographer until you've reached out to see if they are available on your date. Before I started doing research, I had a couple of incredible wedding photographers I've followed on Instagram for years, "thought" I knew they were "the ones", and of course they were already booked (and outrageously priced) and I was left feeling a little sad. Don't do this! Booking a photographer won't be on any standard "Wedding To Do List" as the most pressing vendor to book, but I would definitely recommend making it one of the first things you cross of your list. Narrow your search down to about 10 photographers or so and just shoot them an email with your wedding date to check availability - and then you can always start more of a conversation down the road. Our photographer was the most important thing to me hands-down and the first thing I started to think about after josh and I enjoyed that first week of engagement bliss. After the big day is all over, the photos (and memories) will be the one thing you have to remember it all, so you don't want to lose out on someone whose work you truly love because they are already booked.
2. Digital vs. Film
When digital photography came along, it seems like everyone who still shot film was super old school but these days, a lot of wedding photographers are actually moving back to film photography (the amazing Jose Villa might have something to do with that). I think there's something magical about film photographs that you just can't replicate with a digital camera, so I knew that I definitely wanted to go the film route for our wedding. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, digital photos are often more crisp, clear and sharp while film photos tend to be softer, warmer and more textured.
^ all photos can be found here

But don't get me wrong, there are plenty of advantages to digital photography, including the fact that you will get many more photos of your wedding day. With film, the photographer has to be very selective and intentional about how they use each roll and shoot every single photo, so if you are expecting 30+ photos of you cutting the cake, for example, that won't happen if you choose film. Basically, they can't afford the "shoot now, delete later" method that we often use with digital cameras, so every shot is precious. Plus, it's very hard to shoot film in low light, so you will get fewer of those late-night party shots. :) But in the end, the sheer beauty, rich colors and soft, airy nature of film photographs outweighed all of this for us. And since so many guests will be taking photos with digital cameras or iPhones, having a fine art film photographer allows us to capture those more warm, artistic shots that we can treasure forever. If you have no idea which route to go (like I did a few months ago), this is the way I went about researching that made the decision clear.
  1. Make a Pinterest board of about 50 wedding photos you really LOVE
  2. Click through to the sources to see who the photographers are and if they shoot film or digital (I found that 90% of the photos on my board were shot with film)
  3. Start a list of the photographers on the photos on your board and see if there is any crossover there (all my photos spanned almost exclusively across 10 or so photographers, the majority being from film photographers like Brumley & Wells, Jose Villa, KT Merry, Jeremiah & Rachel and Jen Huang. What can I say, I know what I like!)
  4. Make a decision! Are more of the photographs you love more crisp and clear (digital) or more soft and blurred (film)? Of course there is so much crossover now (a lot of photographers can edit digital photographs to look incredibly close to a film photographs), but these steps really helped my decision.
3. Experience & Reputation 
We didn't necessarily need someone who had been in the business their whole lives, but we did want someone who knew what they are doing and had a great reputation. We looked at a few photographers who were just starting out and were very enticing price-wise, but at the same time didn't want to sacrifice skill, experience, and quality for price. The way I judged experience was mainly by narrowing my list down to 10 photographers (who I knew were available), and then typing their name into Style Me Pretty to see some of the past weddings they had done. It's a great way to judge experience if photographers have had their work published on reputable sites like SMP or other wedding blogs. What was even better was when I searched from Brumley and Wells and saw that I had already pinned so many of his photos! It was also helpful to see that he was a top vendor on sites like Wedding Chicks and got good ratings on sites like Wedding Wire
4. Personality 
This was huge! And even though we hadn't met, Jacob was super responsive to emails (even my millions of crazy bridezilla questions) and sounded so nice over the phone. And if you can't quite get a read in advance of meeting, book an engagement session with the photographer before you book them for the wedding to see how you interact. Things like engagement photos can be a little awkward when you are trying to capture your relationship in front of a complete stranger, so we wanted someone that would make us feel at ease, and Jacob was exactly that. He gave us direction while letting us be ourselves, and made us feel confident by giving constant feedback on how things were looking. Personality is also really important because on the day of the wedding, he or she will likely be there person you see and spend the most time with!
5. Budget and Location 
We had a large laundry list of photographers when we started the search process (and I mean LONG), but I was able to cut that almost in half based on budget. Some of the prices were just extortionate, and to be honest there are so many amazing and reasonably priced photographers out there that I just don't think it's worth it to max our your budget. I balanced that mindset with asking myself "what is going to be the one thing you are going to have to remember the day?", which is of course, the photos. So we still wanted whoever we chose to be really special. And although we did draw the line in terms of budget, we didn't limit the search at all when it came to location. If you want to get the best deal, then hiring someone locally is probably your best bet, but most wedding photographers travel all over the U.S., are used to traveling, and sometimes even include those travel fees in their package prices. Jacob is from Colorado. For our engagement shoot, we were able to schedule it around another wedding he had in New York so he was able to shoot us for no extra travel cost.

Those were the big ones! You may also want to ask your photographer questions like:
  1. Do you come with an assistant? We knew we wanted two people the day of given the fact that we have such a large wedding party. Things could get a little crazy with just one person trying to capture it all!
  2. Do you have a portfolio? Look at past photos and see if guests and the couple look really natural or if they look forced. This can be a sign of a good photographer.
  3. Do they push the first look? I've heard that some photographers can be really pushy about shooting the bride & groom together before the wedding for timing/logistical reasons. And while a first look actually makes so much more sense (I truly think there are way more pros than cons), josh and I both felt that there is just something so special about walking down the aisle and it being the first time you see each other. So while we've heard every reason in the book to do a first look (and I really do agree with most of them), it just isn't for us. But however you feel about it, just make sure you choose a photographer that understands your decision. 
So there you have it! Luckily, Jacob was where all of the points above intersected and we couldn't be happier with the decision. The photos sprinkled through this post are the engagement photos he shot of us on Marlborough Street, in the Boston Public Garden, and on a pier in the Seaport. Getting these photos back from him just re-confirmed that we picked a good one (and the grueling photographer hunt was worth it!), and I have no doubt in my mind that he will capture our wedding day beautifully.

I'll be sure to post another planning update soon! And in the meantime, you can read more wedding-related posts here or keep up with us on Instagram using the hashtag #joshandlusayido.


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