To chose a wedding photographer is no easy task. With a number of professionals who’s rates can triple from the one to the other, and who’s websites are more attractive one than another, your hesitations are justified. Especially as your cousin Denis offered to cover the event… Be warned, do not fall for it ! Given the total cost of your wedding, a photographer won’t make a big difference. If you don’t go for a professional, you will regret it, for sure. 20 years down the line, all you will be left with are those pictures, so they might as well be good ones !
So you have to chose a wedding photographer. But how ? First of all, know that you should start looking 6 months ahead of your big day, and even one to two years in advance for the ones who are most renowned. But then, what to base yourself on ? What are the key criteria ? How not to make a mistake ? Before you jump onto the first one, here are a few pieces of advice to find the best photographer for your wedding, and the most important questions to ask when you meet up.
Do your research
First step, take a look on the web and see which photographers could potentially come up to the area where your wedding will take place. Some of them travel all over France, but if they come from the other end of the country, it will be more expensive and difficult to meet up before your wedding day. Therefore, rather chose a local one. There are some good ones everywhere, not just in Paris ! And it will reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding ;)
Google will be your best ally in this Grail’s quest. Just type in “wedding photographer thebigcitynearwhereIamgettingmarried” and there pops the first listing !
Then, take a look at all the French wedding blogs. They collaborate with the best photographers. That way, you might come across some rare pearls who might not be well referenced on Google. On the other side, some of them might be booked up 2 years in advance or be way over your budget, but it is worth taking a look.
Once you have established your list, go and visit every selected artist’s site and determine which styles you like best, composition wise, in term of artistic choices and finish : soft light, vintage unsaturated treatments (?), pastel tint, wide angle, black and white, grain…
You have refined your selection, all that’s left to do is send a email to each of them, stating the date of the event and requesting their brochure and price list. And if you do not speak French, don’t forget to ask them whether they speak other languages.
At this stage, you should be left with a few names. The only way to make your final choice is to meet them. Now is the time to suggest en encounter around a coffee, or to set up a Skype meeting.
Here are the points we suggest you address during your interview.
15 questions and answers to help you pick the best wedding photographer
1/ How would you define your style ?
Some have a more journalistic approach and blend amongst the guests. They can capture the smallest details : preparations behind the curtain, nature, kids, decoration… Others have a more artistic and graphic approach. And then some photographers do not hesitate to guide the guests to take the pose, not necessarily looking for a natural finish but for some fun pictures.
2/ Why did you chose your job ?
Of course, they will tell you “out of passion”, which is a bit of an easy answer as wedding photographers usually earn a good living… But it is always interesting to listen to someone who’s passionate bout their art, and it will enable you to know him or her better.
3/ Where did you train ? Tell me about your experience ? How many weddings did you do ?
Even if you can find the odd prodigy autodidact beginner, with time, a photographer undoubtedly refines his technique and his artistic approach.
4/ What equipment do you use ?
Film or digital ? A film report is always more expensive, and you will have less pictures, but, as photographers say, “the grain will be outstanding”. If he uses a digital camera, Canon or Nikon, never mind as long as it is a professional and broadsheet body. The lenses must be luminous, in order to, for example, avoid using the flash inside the church (which has been forbidden by the profession’s code of honour for 20 years ;).
5/ How many photographies will be delivered ?
It varies between 200 and 800 photos, depending on the photographer. But quality is better than quantity, unless your wedding lasts for a week…
6/ Will the images be edited and/or retouched ?
The two actions are different.
Editing the image means to adjust the contrast, the exposure, the colour and potentially the grain, all of this after the shooting. It is often essential with digital photos, giving the pictures a vintage or more modern look. It is not necessary with when using a silver camera.
Retouching an image enables to correct skin imperfections for instance. It is most of the time done in a studio but is not common practice in the wedding industry.
7/ How will the photos be delivered ?
In a wooden case with free hard copies, a USB key or a DVD containing the digital files; or other packagings more or less elaborate… Photographers nowadays are more creative one than the other.
8/ How long before the photos are ready ?
Generally, you will receive them within 5 weeks, on average.
9/ Do you propose photo books or albums ? If so, do you have a sample to show ?
Some photographers collaborate with extremely skilful publishers who will put together a wedding book, actual piece of art to be handled with silk gloves (yes, it can go as far as that !). It all depends on the manufacturer. In any case, it will have nothing to do with the book you would get printed by yourself.
The quality criteria are the cover material (leather, linen,…) the thickness of the pages, the paper quality (fine art, photo,…).
Count between 200 and 800 euros, depending on the quality and the amount of pages.
10/ Do you guaranty that everyone will be shot ?
The photographer cannot assure you that he can or will shoot all the guests, specially if they are 400. But if share you share your concern with him, he will make sure to organise well organised group pictures, or to bring along an assistant, called “second shooter” (included or not in his quote).
11/ Test his sense of improvisation and organisation
Does he have a plan B in case it rains ? When to take the bridal pictures ?… Does he come up with any suggestion ? If he wants to create havoc in you schedule to get better pictures, it’s a good sign ! He might, for instance, recommend not to have too many group photos taken so that you can enjoy the cocktail party, or suggest to postpone the bridal shoot in order to have a better light…
12/ How many hours of presence for the announced rate ?
Most of the time, photographers propose a package from the cocktail party until the first dance. After that, it is optional. In any case, they have to be there for during the preparations !
13/ Is there a contract to sign ?
If it is the case, it is a good thing ! A contract is a guaranty token for the photographer. It might specify the photographer’s back up plan in case of unavailability on the wedding day, or how he plans to use the photos on his blog or for his own promotion. Furthermore, you should be entitled to chose whether you allow the diffusion of your photos or not.
14/ How to take out an option ?
In most cases, you will have to pay a deposit in order to book your date.
15/ Have you met other brides for that date ?
If he is the one you want, get your check book out ! Following those encounters, you will have all the information you need to make your decision and finally choose your wedding photographer. Be quick, other brides and grooms to be are more than likely doing the same thing at the same time as you.
Last but not least : listen to yourself and trust yourself. A photographer is first and foremost an encounter, and you are going to spend some intense moments, sometimes even intimate with this person. If you did not relate well, forget it ! On your big day, you need to be at ease and trust each and every person take part in your wedding planning, so that you can enjoy your special day to the full.
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