So….you’re getting married (congrats) and you’re on the hunt for a wedding photographer. Not just any wedding photographer, you’re looking for your Dream Wedding Photographer. But you’ve never been married before, heck you’ve never even had your photograph taken professionally before. So how the hell are you supposed to know what to look for or what questions to ask?
Well, finding and booking the perfect wedding photographer is a lot like dating. It’s a lot like internet dating in fact (from what I’ve heard).
Which is why I recommend taking the exact same approach to finding and booking your wedding photographer as you would to online dating.
Simply put, there are a lot of fish in the wedding photography sea. Unless you are getting married in an area with a population of around 12, as soon as you type the words “wedding photographer” into Google about a gazillion of us will pop up.
So how on earth are you meant to find the perfect wedding photographer for you and your wedding when there are just SO MANY of us out there and you’re not 100% sure what you’re looking for anyway?
I’m glad you asked.
Over the course of the next few weeks I’m going to give you the inside-scoop to help you find the wedding photographer who is the perfect fit for you.
I’m going to tell you how I, a pro wedding photographer, would go about looking for MY dream wedding photographer if I was getting married.
Now, because this is actually quite a big topic to cover I’m going to break it down into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks. I thought I would start at the beginning (clever huh!?) with this article and focus on how to find your dream wedding photographer.
Tip #1: Long distance relationships are hard(er) work.
So, you’re trying out this internet dating thing (or maybe Tinder, although I’m too old and un-single to actually know 100% what Tinder is). Let’s say for our example that you live in Queenstown. You log into your chosen dating site and search for “single male”. Now, chances are your search might bring up some great looking guys, but if they live in Khazakstan that’s not really going to help you much is it?
I’m not saying that the long-distance thing can’t work but it’s a lot harder and you’re basically stacking the odds against yourself. After all, how many of those sweet Khazakstani boys would be willing to date a girl halfway round the other side of the world?
For this reason, unless there is a particular out-of-town photographer who’s work you’ve fallen in love with I recommend you look for a local wedding photographer.
Some of the advantages of using a local photographer include;
- There is no substitute for local knowledge (ie good knowledge of local venues, locations for location photos, weather, they can recommend other vendors you might like) and it can make a huge difference to both your wedding photos and your whole wedding day.
- Out-of-town photographers will usually charge travel costs on top of whatever their normal wedding packages are.
- You could dig up a tonne of super-talented photographers based in a different city/area but the majority of them may be unwilling to travel to your wedding destination so your search results might be mostly duds.
Tip #2: Be honest & up-front about who you are and what you’re looking for in a life partner….I mean photographer.
If you were a single man living in Queenstown and you’re searching for “that special somebody” on internet dating sites you wouldn’t post an ad saying “Man seeks woman” would you? After all, that says nothing about the KIND of woman you are after and who knows who you’d get replying. Well, guess what? Searching for photographers online is exactly the same.
If you Google “Queenstown wedding photographer” it says absolutely NOTHING about the kind of photographer you’re looking for and it will obviously bring up every single wedding photographer who lives or works in the Queenstown area. Just like dating, the majority of those photographers won’t be a good fit for you. They might be too expensive, too cheap, too “posey”, too artsy, whatever.
So how do you find photographers online who ARE a good fit for you? Try this instead; think of 3 words that you feel sums up your dream wedding. Eg “relaxed”, “natural” & “fun”. Include whichever ONE of these words resonates the most with you in your search keywords. Let’s see what difference this technique makes in real world Google search results.
First we are going to Google “Queenstown wedding photographer”. Here’s what the search results look like;
Now, let’s try adding the word “relaxed” to our search keywords (so we’re now Googleing “relaxed Queenstown wedding photographer”). The search results are completely different;
Note: I used the term “relaxed” as an example because it is super-important to me to make sure my couples feel as relaxed as possible on their wedding day. That way they can actually enjoy their wedding day and their photos look as natural and beautiful as possible. You will notice that my wedding photography business (Fallon Photography) didn’t show up at all in the first search results but I was all over the second (“relaxed”) set of search results. If it is really important to you to have a relaxed wedding day and beautiful, natural photos you might never find me or photographers like me if you just Google “Queenstown wedding photographer”.
Tip #3: Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your Prince.
Ok, so you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, you’ve done a search using keywords that are highly relevant and you’ve found a bunch of good potential dates online who (a) live in/near Queenstown, and (b) are the kind of guys/girls you’re looking for. They all look pretty good on paper, some better some worse, but you don’t want to have to go on a date with ALL of them to figure out which (if any) are The One. So how do you narrow it down as easily and painlessly as possible? It’s exactly the same situation with finding your dream wedding photographer. Here’s how I’d tackle it;
1st Base: Love Letters By Email
Let’s say I’m getting married in Queenstown and the most important thing to me is that my wedding day and my wedding photos are relaxed (which in my mind equates to natural and beautiful as well). I’ve Googled “relaxed Queenstown wedding photographer” and I’ve found 20 photographers who’s work I like.
I sit down and I type a friendly, personal email with as much information as possible and I send it to all of them.
I would definitely include the following info in this email;
- Specifically the kind of wedding photos/wedding photographer you are looking for (eg include the personalised search keywords you used when you Googled them – in my case “relaxed”).
- The wedding day and date and whether it’s confirmed or tentative. If you have a confirmed wedding date and the photographer in question is not available, scratch them off the list.
- The Ceremony & Reception Venues if you know them and whether they are confirmed or tentative. This gives the photographer the chance to let you know whether or not they have photographed a wedding there, they may also send you sample real wedding photos from that venue which may be helpful.
- Tell them a little bit about yourselves and what you are after from your wedding day in your email. This is a good way to;
- See if they actually “listen” to your email. If they don’t address your key points in their reply they’re not actually listening.
- Let them reassure you that they are your kind of people
- Elicit a more personal and friendly approach from them which is a win-win for everybody. If you send them a lovely, personal email and they respond with a short and blunt (and probably templated) email, personally I would probably scratch them off the list. Who knows, they might even give you a better price if they love your first email (I’ve offered at least one couple a killer deal without being asked because their first email was so amazing).
Also, I would make sure that I email them all individually so that I can personalise each email with their name and the email addresses of the other recipients are not visible. Why bother doing this?
Again, it’s all about getting to know who they are as people and letting them know who you are as a person. Yes, they are professionals but people are people in my experience. If you treat them as nicely as possible most people will respond in kind. The Dalai Larma would call it Karma.
2nd Base: Skype Love
Ok, so I’ve emailed the 20 Queenstown wedding photographers who’s work I liked and who seemed like they might be a good fit for me and my wedding.
Some didn’t reply, some sent me a reply that was generic and impersonal so they clearly didn’t actually “listen” to my email and some were just “not my type”. But let’s say there are 7 photographers who listened, were friendly and personal in their emails and seemed like they might be my kind of people. The next step is to have a chat with them on Skype or by phone. While a Skype chat is an ideal time to ask your potential wedding photographers any burning questions you might have, it’s more than anything the best way (short of actually meeting in person) of figuring out if you “click” and if they might be the right person as well as the right photographer for your wedding day. In my mind this is the real reason to have a Skype chat with potential photographers, it’s easy enough to ask questions via email.
Note: you don’t have to turn your camera on when you Skype with them if you don’t want to. You can always use the excuse that the signal is weak where you are and the video will kill the connection. Or you could chat on the phone so it’s voice only, no video. However, I would recommend that you chat on Skype and you leave your video active. Why? Because, like I said, the main point of this chat is to get to know them and to let them get to know you. And also because it’s your photographer’s job to help you feel comfortable in front of the camera even if you’re camera shy. What better test for them than seeing if they, a complete stranger, can make you feel comfortable video-Skyping with them?
3rd Base: The Blind Date
If your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, you wouldn’t really want to turn one of the most important days of your life into a Blind Date would you?
If you turn up on your wedding day never having met your wedding photographer you are turning your wedding day into one giant Blind Date, which can make things awkward for everybody. Give yourself (and your photographer) the best possible chance of capturing natural and beautiful wedding photos on your big day by getting to know each other a little before the wedding day.
What’s the best way to do this? The absolute best way to do this is to do some pre-wedding photographs with your chosen wedding photographer. And in an ideal world you’d do this pre-wedding shoot before you paid the deposit and signed the contract, so you get to take your photographer for a test drive before you buy.
These pre-wedding photos don’t always have to cost much/anything. For example, I offer a free 1 hour Pre-Wedding Photo Shoot to all couples meeting with me to discuss wedding photography. We often combine this Pre-Wedding Shoot with a Venue/Location Scout, which is a great way of;
- Getting some beautiful (& FREE) professional quality photos you can use for Save The Date cards or Wedding Invitations.
- Taking me for a test drive so you can see what I’m like to work with & whether or not we click.
- Getting comfortable in front of the camera.
- Getting to know each other a little better so you’re more comfortable on your wedding day.
- Showing your camera-shy fiance that wedding photography can actually be relaxed and a hell of a lot of fun!
- Getting a photographer’s perspective on your chosen Venues/Locations.
I started offering free 1 Hour Pre-Wedding Photo Shoots to all my couples because simply it made it so much easier to capture realaxed, natural & beautiful photos on their wedding day. It really is a win-win for your photographer, so even if they don’t mention something like this, ask them if they would consider doing something like this (tell them some of the other photographers you’ve contacted do it and you think it’s a great idea).
Judging a photographer based purely on their images is like choosing a potential life partner based purely on their hotness.
While the beauty of their images is hugely important, wedding photography is the same as dating in this regard – their personality and your compatibility with them as people can make or break the relationship.
It’s in your best interests to get to know your potential wedding photographers a little bit so you can make an informed decision about whether they are the right Person as well as the right Photographer for you and your wedding day.
Hopefully you found the above helpful – I really do appreciate any feedback you can give me (please post any comments on this page).
NEXT WEEK: GOING STEADY!
You’ve found your dream wedding photographer, but how do you take your relationship to the next level?
In next week’s article I will cover photography packages, contracts, shot lists, talking photography style etc – the whole booking process basically.