You can easily scroll on facebook and within minutes, I’m sure that you will see a horror story about a couple that spent money on “Wedding Photographer” and all they got were out of focus shots or *gasp* no high resolution pictures at all and the only pictures that the couple could use were from Instagram on their special day.
Don’t let this happen to you. Be prepared before your next inquiry with a potential photographer. Use the Checklist below (yes, you can print it out) and see if they make the cut.
BEFORE YOU MEET THEM
Before you meet with them, you should be vetting their portfolio. Look for websites that not only have gorgeous images, but also video, behind the scenes of them working, great customer reviews, press or publications and awards.
Go on their Instagram and their Facebook. See how often they post and what the quality of their work is.
Check how often they update their blog. The more recent the posts, the more likely they are to be keeping up their site and their work.
Do they have a sample gallery or slideshow on their website? Does it have their branding and logo on it?
Look at their style- are they shooting all natural light in the morning or do they have some night time images too. If you are getting married at the local aquarium in the evening time, then getting a “natural light only” photographer WILL not know how to use flash for this type of environment.
Look at their turnaround time? It is days, it is it weeks? Is it months? What kind of files will you get getting (high resolution edited images?)
Email them or call them before the meeting. Schedule a facetime if need be if you can’t meet with them in person.
When you ask for a quote, ask about the number of hours you need them, the time of day, the location and if they use a second shooter. Ask them about a sample gallery of over 800 pictures to see their overall style of a wedding. Do they offer a free engagement session so that they can work with you before you sign with them?
DURING THE MEETING
Do they seem knowledgeable about the subject?
Do they seem excited and helpful?
Do they seem confident, punctual and presentable?
Do they love their job?
How many weddings have they done?
Do they seem organized?
What equipment do they use? Are they prepared for weather, bad lighting etc?
Do they have insurance and a business license?
How is their presentation? Do they have good image quality? Do you like their overall vision?
Do they have any references of past couples that you can email or call before working with them?
Is their price range manageable? Do they take payments?
Let’s stop there-
pricing is a touchy subject. Plus let’s get into the nitty gritty. Most pro wedding photographers with pro equipment, insurance and a license is going to be starting off at 1,000 or higher minimum for an 8 hour wedding. Most photographers in my area in Virginia Beach start at 2,000 for 8 hours.
So if you get a quote that’s less than 1,000 for 8 hours, you might have a red flag go up. Maybe they are just starting out in the business, or maybe they don’t have insurance or a license- whatever the case may be, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
The Average price according to Wedding Wire that you should expect to spend on a quality wedding photographer is 12% of your total wedding budget and 1,150$-3,000$ to give you a range figure.
Honestly, the cost of most wedding photographer business start up costs average around 13k not including the YEARS of preparation, education and experience that it takes to truly make something wonderful. I know for me, I take over 100,000 photos a year on average to stay up with honing my craft. Put that into perspective when you are looking for someone of quality.
DURING THE ENGAGEMENT SHOOT (HIGHLY RECOMMEND WORKING WITH THEM BEFORE CHOOSING THEM)
Do they know what they are doing?
Do they interact well with you both?
Do they seem like they are having a good time?
Do they direct you and pose you both to get some good angles?
Do they have long periods of awkward pausing to adjust their settings?
Do they seem confident in their selves and their work- seeing the shot and knowing what they want?
Do they have a good work flow?
Do they deliver a good amount of images in a good amount of time?
How is their image quality?
OVERALL THOUGHTS. You can pick up A LOT from a facetime call or a meeting in person for a potential photographer. You can also tell their style and voice by the way they work with you both in person.
Please, don’t go to craigslist and find a 500$ photographer. Believe me, you will thank me later when you see your gorgeous photos- the photos that you will see in your house FOREVER after you get married.
The biggest investment in your new adventure together is quality photos- ones that you would be willing to share with you family for generations to come.
Christal Marshall is the Owner of Virginia Photos and Films in Chesapeake, Virginia. She was voted top wedding photographers in Virginia Beach in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and she has been published over 60 times in places like Pop Sugar, Black Bride, Zola, Southern Noir, Bespoke Bride, Capital Romance and more.
She started in 2011 with one camera from Amazon and taught herself photography, video, graphic design, webdesign and marketing and does her businesses full time while homeschool three crazy munchkins.