How to Revel in Finding "The One" (aka Wedding Photographer) - A Helpful Guide in Wedding Planning

I don't know how it happens. But it does. And I've heard it more and more recently for some reason.

... Couples unhappy with their choice of photographer and/or wedding photos.

It breaks my heart to the ends of the Earth that the one day that was meant to be immortalized in visual form is a major disappointment.

I have said it once, and I will say it again-- wedding photography is one thing you do not want to casually select.

And with all these stories I'm hearing from friends of friends and their terrible images makes me want to open up a Charlie Brown/Lucy Photographic Help Stand and put up a sign, "The Photog Is In." I don't claim to be a master at this, but I'm an old soul, and I've got a sterling record of some strong, spot-on intuition.

1. You HAVE to find a photographer you click with. Someone who gets you. Someone who communicates with you. Someone you love. And I am a little biased because I do treat everyone like family. But really. You have to be able to connect. He/she is documenting one of the most important days in your life. Photographers should "get" what you love and want.

getting ready wedding

2. Go with your gut instinct. Sounds silly? Well, when I was looking for my wedding photographer, I wanted someone who was just starting out. It's the teacher in me; I have a soft spot for wanting to give people experience because so many people gave me similiar opportunities throughout my life. And honestly, finding someone who was starting out was a good way to stay in my budget. HOWEVER. Even though my photog was starting out, I knew she had an artistic eye. She knew composition. She mastered light. Her post-production was beautiful in the photos I saw. In my gut, I knew she was going to be amazing if given the chance (and she was!).

Don't cast off a photographer if they are just starting out (especially if you are on a tight budget). BIG HOWEVER. If someone is new to wedding photography, look at how they compose their photos. Look at the overall picture of who they are. Are they comfortable with their equipment? Are they eager to please you, but professional in knowing that they are valuable? Are the photos they present to you of the quality and style you are looking for? You don't have to see wedding-specific photos to know someone has a good eye and confidence in their craft and equipment.

If you don't like the quality or style of portraits and landscapes they have taken already, then chances are you won't like your wedding photos. (And this applies to established photographers, too!) Just look at the whole proverbial picture.

3. Just because someone is advertised on a wedding website (e.g., Wedding Wire, The Knot, One Wed, et cetera) doesn't mean they are a great photographer. It means they had some advertising revenue to put towards an ad or listing. The Knot is a wonderful free service to brides because vendors purchase ad space and contribute to their revenue. There are a lot of fabulously talented photogs on those wedding websites, but unfortunately, there are also a lot of the opposite caliber. Just do yourself a favor and always cross-check their portfolio on other websites.

4. Ask a friend whom they recommend before surfing the wonderful World Wide Web. Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising for us photographers, too. Hey, it's free, but most importantly, we know it's the heartfelt truth. A trusted friend will not steer you wrong.

Take my best friend, Elaine. She loves to try new food things from the grocery store, and she can sell those things she loves to a rock. Jell-O's Mousse Temptations? She loved them. She told me about them. Now I love them. (Truly, I do! You NEED to go try the regular Chocolate AND Dark Chocolate... mmmm.) What if she said she thought they were disgusting? Well, I wouldn't waste my money on trying those Mousse Temptations, now would I? (Really. Go try them. Right now. They are in your grocery store's fridge section!)

5. Get a second opinion before signing a contract. I love it when brides bring friends, fianc├ęs, and family when they meet me. Because again. The people important to you are important to me.

Beyond that though, you can be enamoured with the photographer's salesmanship or personality, but your true blue friend will nudge you and hopefully give an outsider-looking-in opinion.

I want you to be in love with my work and me, but I also want to be loved respectfully and rationally-- just like a family member! Laugh, cry, get angrily frustrated with how the dog chewed up your right wedding shoe two weeks before your big day and maybe take it out on me. Kidding, but you get what I mean. ;)

6. You get what you pay for. If an established (note: established with many, many weddings in their portfolios) photographer has really low prices, you might want to question the solidarity and longevity of their work. It costs a lot to run a solid photography business. I'm not saying who is bad or who is good. But be educated and do your research when establishing a budget and looking for a photographer. You can't mess around with this once-in-a-lifetime event.

7. Understand what your photographer goes through. Did you know that we spend hours upon hours preparing for you? We research, we prepare, we organize, we insure, we travel. You can see what happens during the average 8 hours of your wedding, but after? We organize, we process, we edit, we create, we perfect, we backup, we format, we communicate, we deliver. Did you know in the time we first meet to the final purchasing of products that, on average, we spend at least 40 hours just for YOU? We love you, and we want to do this for you; this is why you are paying us what you paid us. That is why we are in business.

8. Be on the lookout for those who only see dollar signs. It'll be pretty obvious. Sure, we have to feed our families, and it is a business. HOWEVER. There is a difference from "worth their weight in gold" and greediness. Now a higher sticker price, firmness on contracted hours, or financial accountability does not always mean greedy. I repeat, it does NOT always mean greedy. Weddings are a personal event, and you need to personally connect. You will spot greediness a mile away. And it does not have both parties' best interests at heart.

couple wedding ceremony

9. Be inspired! Even if you look through thousands of photogs' websites looking for "The One," get away from the all the legal stuff, the pricing list, and the requirements of deposits. Just LOOK at the beautiful images. Genuinely observe a photograph. You are hiring someone to transform life into art. Picture yourself in them... because it will be soon.

I sincerely hope this helps in some little way when you're looking for a wedding photographer. You know I'd love to have you be a part of the Bit of Ivory photo-fam, but I do want you to do your research and get educated about the functionings of this crazy world of photography... AND honestly, I want to know that out of all those photogs... you decided that I was "The One!" :)

- Chelsea :)

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