How to find a great wedding photographer
It can be a challenging journey to embark on, so we’re going to give you some tips on how to find a great wedding photographer for your day.
We’ve been wedding photographers for nearly a decade now and the industry has changed a lot. It might be hard to believe, but we have survived (and mostly ignored) most of the trends, and those include:
- Textured backgrounds (just put the texture of leaves on it, that’ll make it better)
- Antique Typewriters (yup, that was a thing)
- Style me pretty (inspired by a blog that meant your photos all looked like a soft romantic dream in southern California)
- Make it look like Portland (you know your photos with a green forest, rainy, moody, creatives, coffee)
- Balls out (literately do ANYTHING for the photo, including photos of balls – you know, *ahem*, testes)
- Hipster (beards, lumberjacks, man buns)
- And now, dark, moody and faceless (inspired by a photographer who went viral a few years ago. This is very hot right now — everything is dark and you can’t see people’s faces because faces are so yesterday.)
We believe in timeless photos!
Years ago when we started out, other photographers were very secretive about their methods and the internet wasn’t filled with endless information. The only way to learn the craft was working as an assistant, or the way we did it – we taught ourselves through years of hard work and trial and error. We practiced on days off. We were our own critics, our own teachers.
It was hard work, and it made us great.
Today it’s very different. You can cheaply get a website, copy some shots on pinterest, take a few workshops, and with a little luck you look like a pro. Most photographers don’t even know how to use their cameras, can’t use off-camera flash, and never put in the years and years of learning how to deal with every single lighting condition. A photographer will start up, learn how to make a passable portfolio, put up the best shots and charge thousands. It seems like a deal because they are priced on the mid to lower end. It seems like a deal because the shots look good.
It’s a lot more difficult to spot a bad photographer. And even more difficult to spot the mediocre ones. People don’t even know what they are missing.
That’s the truth.
How to find a great wedding photographer
Having great wedding photos starts with a great wedding photographer. Here are some tips to help you get those great wedding photos and avoid mediocre wedding photographers.
1. First and foremost, hire us. No, seriously, hire us. 🙂
2. Experience. It does matter. I look back at weddings we shot years and years ago and I see one thing: we are better now. We have refined our portfolio and capture the perfect memory of your day. Great photographers work through wedding schedules going off the rails, through bad light, bad weather, and tough circumstances and still manage to come up with a beautiful photographs. You need a photographer who has been through it all.
3. Quality over Quantity. If you can get an amazing photographer for 8 hours, this is WAY better than a mediocre photographer for 12 hours.
4. Versatility. You want a photographer who shoots in all conditions. If you are having a winter wedding, a wedding in a very dark venue, or in the rainy season, you’d better think this through. If you select a photographer who only puts up the perfect light and bright curated photos of perfect lighting and perfect circumstances, you might be in trouble when your wedding doesn’t match the photographers’ style and technical limitations.
5. Off-Camera Lighting. Ok, this will take a tiny education. A flash is often put on the camera and bounced off the ceiling. Some photographers will take that flash off the camera and use it to create amazing reception photography. This isn’t common. Here is an example of a bounce flash and off-camera flash photo.
We use both, one of us normally taking the more creative shot, and the other taking a safety shot. The top photo is the bounce flash, and below is off-camera flash.
The reception is half of your day–it’s usually a considerable investment, and it’s filled with all the people you love. Getting great reception photographs is essential, and sadly, many photographers focus on the wedding portraits and give no love to creating amazing reception photos.
I will also say, that my personal opinion is that natural light photography is easy money. EASY MONEY. Get a great camera setup, find some shade and… bam! With companies like us, you get everything you get from the natural light photographers, and so much more.
6. Second Photographers. Many second photographers are kids, working for $25 an hour. They might get a few shots, they might not. It’s more about the fact that photographers had to start offering second shooters to remain competitive. Why would anyone pay for one shooter when when you get better odds of capturing that great shot, double the amount of photos, and a back up if something happens to the lead photographer. So, that’s why you want the best second photographer possible. With us, you don’t get a second photographer: you get two lead photographers.
If you can, hire a team with two lead photographers, not a ‘second shooter’. This is the secret to the number of amazing photos Nathan and I deliver to our clients. We give a 360 degree view of your wedding, so you see all the moments you love, and all the moments you missed.
7. Variety. Here is what I’ve learned over the years. Our favourite images are not always our clients’ favourites. Part of our philosophy is that variety is very important, so we make sure we give you more favourites than you can count. We want to give you a little bit of EVERYTHING. Creative, wow images, classic, timeless, emotional, documentary, traditional, family, etc. Variety is a mindset, and it is the best for the clients.
Does your photographer always shoot a really low depth of field? (That is when the subject is in focus and the background is very blurry). It can be a soft and beautiful effect, but it’s also fickle as hell. Certain low aperture lenses are slow to focus and are finicky at the best of times. I have seen people shoot a whole day on these lenses because it looks great on the blog and it sells – but seriously, let’s keep our clients in mind and always have their best interests at heart! In real life, that lens and effect can mean a large portion of photos are blurry. That’s why Nathan and I always shoot with different lenses. And why we always have a variety mindset.
8. Cost. Expensive photographers are expensive for a reason. They are better. Not only they are better but they are often more experienced. It’s a cliché for a reason: you (usually) get what you pay for. Would you rather spend $3000 on a weekend warrior that gives you mediocre images, or $5000 for full-time, dedicated artists that deliver one-of-a-kind photographic art? I can only hope that people will see the value in our experience and professionalism: and so far our amazing clients have! Thank you!
Does an expensive photographer mean you will get great photos? Sadly, no. I have seen so many portfolios in the industry that have poor technical execution. I have see very expensive photographers that look like they mailed it in. I’ve also seen new photographers that look pretty good. It’s a significant investment: you need to do your research for a purchase like this. Ask to see a full portfolio – FULL. This means all the photos delivered to a client from a wedding day. And try to see one from your season (i.e. – winter wedding). Use this to compare photographers and to look for signs that they are executing consistently.
9. Editing matters. Most wedding photographers don’t edit their own photos. It’s a little known industry secret. Or maybe not a secret, but it is not often talked about. The cost of editing is .19 – .33 cents per photo. This creates a problem for you. The photographer will want to sent less photos because he or she is paying per photo. And the editor will want to put in the least amount of work possible.
We fully… FULLY retouch every single photo, and that’s the TLC you should be looking for.
So what are the signs that some one pays for editing.
They edit with the trends ( right now that is brown, and dark like Portland on a rainy day).
They have some inconsistencies in their editing.
They don’t edit blemishes.
The editing comes back really fast, like 1-3 weeks.
10. Don’t get a photographer that makes it about them. BLEH! It’s not a photo shoot – it’s a wedding! You should get amazing photos, and also have fun. You spend more time with your photographers than anyone else on the wedding day, so they’d better be cool and fun, and they’d better be good. We typically run the day, even when the planners are there, they are not with us all day – so make sure you have competent people.
If finding a great wedding photographer seems like a lot of work, you could always just hire us! Yay! We have 8 years of wedding experience, and 13 years of portraiture photography experience. We are well known, and established photographers. Check out our reviews page. All of this, and some of the best photography in the world.
I will leave you with this… I have seen couples pay more for shoes and flowers and dresses and then go cheap on photography. THAT’S NUTS! Your photographs will be your memories, they will be the record of all that time and money you spent on one what’s likely biggest party you’ll ever throw. Invest in capturing your day.
And as you shop around look for the things we have mentioned: experience, off-camera lighting, versatility, quality second shooters, and variety, quality editing, and great customer service.