As a wedding professional for over 17 years I've dealt with squeezing into many a wedding budget! And I know there is many articles, blog post, and frankly well intention bad advice floating around about how to get more for less. But I have heard MANY a horror story about "great deals" that left wedding couples disappointed or downright duped! So here are 5 tips on how to get the most VALUE from your wedding photographer.
1. do your research
You should ask lots of questions and feel like you 100% know and understand not only what your photographer's packages include, what their experience and skill level is, but also in asking questions get an idea for what their personality is like. If you are at a loss for what questions to ask, I put together a list of 5 questions to ask before you hire your photographer that you should really check out!
2. All about the second photographer
A lot of photographers (myself included) have a second photographer as part of their wedding packages, I love having a second photographer shooting a wedding with me, and it add a lot of value to your wedding photos. They will be able to capture more moments, more angles, and things that I just can't on my own. I have yet to figure out how to be in two places at once, so if you really want photos of the cocktail hour, or the guys getting ready as well as the girls, a second photographer doubles the coverage without doubling the cost.
3. Have a clear timeline
I don't know if I should have this header as a clear timeline or a REALISTIC timeline? Before you book your photographer you should have a good idea of what the timeline for the day will be. When the photographer needs to show up, and when they will be done. Don't try and pack 6 hours of photography coverage into 4 hours, you'll only end up rushing and stressed. Also know that if you want your photographer to cover something at the very end of the night, like a sparkler exit... that will most likely eat up a lot of our coverage time if we have to stay until that event happens. The formal and family photos also have to be a realistic goal. They can eat up a lot of time (and throw off your whole timeline) if we are trying to get 100 family photos in the span of 15 mins. Above all you want your photographer to be someone who it flexible and accommodating because even the best laid plans go awry sometimes.
4. Don't hire a friend with a nice camera
While I always try and be kind and understanding to couples situation....this is one area where I have just heard WAY TO MANY horror stories to not be absolutely firm on this! It breaks my heart to hear of couples not getting their photos or getting really terrible photos. You are putting so much value into you marriage commitment (which is awesome!) I encourage you to put value into the person who will help keep those memories and moments alive. A true professional has put time and effort into their business, growing their skills, becoming better every year. All in the name of making sure your love is documented in all it's glory. A family member or friend with a nice camera just can't compare.
5. it's okay to ask about discounts
Now some other photographers may have want my head for this... so I do not speak for everyone. But I'm okay with you asking if you qualify for any discounts. I will let couples know if their wedding date falls under my "off season" discount. I know not all photographers offer them because whether your wedding is in June or January it's still the same amount of work, but for me I have a lot less going on in January than June and if I book your wedding in the off season I *might* just be able to have a weekend off in the summer, so it's worth it to me to try and book off season weddings. I also offer military discounts...because...well I may watch too many military homecoming videos and they always make me cry, so in my very own small little way I want to say "thank you"
I do want to stress that I feel there is a difference between asking for a discount...and asking IF you qualify for any discounts. Also don't be afraid when a photographer says they can make you a custom package...I know that word sounds fancy and expensive...but really it's just our way of getting you the perfect fit for your needs and budget!
It's awesome that you know the importance of hiring a pro for your wedding! But not all photographers are created equal, and it can be hard to know exactly how well a photographer will cover your event without knowing what questions to ask. As a Maine wedding photographer with 17 years under my belt, I've heard loads of horror stories, and know first hand what it takes to cover a wedding perfectly from start to finish. Chances are this is your first time navigating the wedding industry. So I've put together a list of questions to ask a photographer before hiring them. Because at the end of the day, whether it's me or not... I truly want your wedding to be the best day of your life!
1. Do you have back up?
A true pro knows that wedding days can be crazy and unpredictable, and they know how to prepare for the worst. Back up equipment, and coverage is so important to have when shooting a wedding. I am fortunate enough to have back up gear, and am part of a big network of Maine wedding photographers who could cover me in the event of an emergency. I also prefer to shoot with a second photographer, not only do you get double the coverage on your wedding day, they help ensure that if anything where to happen to my photos/my equipment (*knock on wood*) you would still have coverage of your day, and photos from their memory cards.
2. Do they know off camera flash?
Now truth is, not every wedding calls of off camera flash, and it's okay if you don't know what that is....but your wedding photographer should. There are photographers who are great *natural light photographers* aka they don't use a flash. But not all weddings are perfectly lit throughout the whole day. If your venue is, a barn, a hall, has dark wood, no windows, or the reception is after dark, or you want the lights turned down super romantic like (or let's face it....nobody is going to drop it like it's hot on a fully lit dance floor, so most receptions are dark!) Your photographer is going to be shooting in less than ideal lighting, and not having a flash or the skills to use one, could lead to some very disappointing photographs.
3. Talk to me about an engagement session?
This it totally my own preference..... I love doing an engagement session, and there is many pros to doing one. First it gives us an opportunity to get you feeling a little more comfortable in front of the camera. 99% of the population does not enjoy being in front of the camera, it can feel awkward, and that's the last thing you want on your wedding day. So getting in front of the camera in a more relaxed setting than your wedding day, learning some poses, being able to look at them and see what ones you loved, what ones didn't work, and what ones need some tweaking, leads to GREAT photos on your wedding day.
Now a good photographer can show up on your wedding day and make you feel comfortable and beautiful even without the engagement session first, and sometimes it's just not possible to make one happen....and that's okay! The way we see ourselves is so subjective, it's awesome to be able to make the most of your wedding photos by knowing what you love! And knowing that...yes.... you are actually photogenic.
4. How would you describe your personality and shooting style?
You are going to spend almost all of your wedding day with your photographer, they need to not be annoying! lol. Not that anyone would say "yes I tend to be super annoying on your wedding day" but you still need to consider this, and try and get a feel for their personality before booking them. Planning a meeting, facetime, or phone call before booking is a great way to get an idea of how they interact with people. Also asking what their shooting style is can be helpful. Ask if they do a lot of posed photos or like to capture the day as it unfolds.
Decide what works for you, would you appreciate someone directing every moment of the day to get the best shot? Or would you prefer they capture the day with a fly on the wall mindset? Or a mixture of both? Either way it's important to not only love their work, but love the way they work.
5. What is your post wedding processing?
How long will you make it before you die of anticipation? haha. Everyone can't wait to see their photos after the big day, knowing what to expect for a turn around time can save you a lot of stress! Will there be a sneak peek, or blog post prior to receiving all the photos? Also knowing about how many photos you will be receiving, if they will all be edited and ready for printing, how you will be getting them, cd, thumb drive, online album? Will you be able to make prints yourself or will you have to order all prints through them?
All great questions to ask your photographer before hiring them, it can clue you in to how professional they are, not to say that every true photographer has the same process, but every pro photographer should be able to clearly tell you what their process is and what to expect.
Number 1. Be Yourself
Probably the question I get asked the most is, "What should we wear?" And first and foremost, you want to look like yourself in the photos. Well if you're anything like me....you have a "I want to look like I stepped out of a perfectly polished Pinterest board." version of yourself.... and also "I have three kids, may have slept in this t-shirt, there's a 50/50 chance I'll shower today." version of myself (or as I like to call it...my every day look) lol. Oh... errr what was my point in confessing that?? OH right!! Let's shoot for the Pinterest look!
But in all seriousness, if you are jeans and a t-shirt kind of person, wear it! If you love to get dressed up, do it! If dragon onesies are your thing.... abso-freaking-lutly!! I want the photos to reflect you, and I want you to be comfortable.
Number 2. Actual Clothing Advice
"Yeah...but what do I actually wear?"
So I find the most visually interesting outfits to be, a pattern on one of you, and pulling out colors from that print to match. Too many prints tend to compete for attention. In the photo above, Whitney's dress has a beautiful pattern that draws you in, but Ken's solid colors, blend perfectly with her dress and ground the whole ensemble.
In the photo below, the cute pattern on Kaite's skirt, stands out from the background, and with Darrel's shirt complimenting the colors of her skirt so well, he doesn't get lost in the photo either.
Plaid also works great as a print....and I mean...who doesn't love plaid??
3. Consider the season and backdrop
I tend to have people stay away from white or black, and lean more towards bright colors. But for every rule there is the exception. Session in the winter tend to be filled white, gray, and black, so going with reds, blues, pinks, definitely helps you stand out.
In spring you get brown, gray, and some light green. So again, blues, reds, yellow (does anyone actually wear yellow? lol) are great colors to wear.
Summer is where you can tend to get away with wearing some white and black. As summer tends to be loaded with green, and blue. Arron's black shirt stands out against the white sky, but also would against the green grass.
And in Fall.....well your guess is as good as mine! lol You never know what colors you may get! Solids, cream color, browns all work well. Where brights can also work super too!
4. How many outfits should I bring?
I usually say at least two, one a little more dressy and one more casual. You can absolutely bring more if you like! Be prepared for awkward changing situations, as we aren't always near the convenient changing spots. If you are shy about the changing situation...one outfit it totally fine also. We can also do a few locations, and different outfits for each location.
5. Choosing a location
I know, I know....we're talking about outfits here.....but here's some *freebie* advice.
I also get asked about choosing a location a lot. I tell clients, if you have a spot that you love, that special to you, that your comfortable at, let's do it! And I mean that, be it Taco Bell(yes, I've totally seen that) to a castle (what photographer in their right mind say "no" to a castle?) Are you surfers, let's do a surfing session. Skiers, let's hit the slopes. Or just a stroll down a beach. I'm always up for adventure and love being inspired by new locations. And if you haven't noticed a theme here yet, I want getting in front of the camera (something most people don't like) to be as comfortable as possible.
If you have no idea where....I have some favorite spots throughout Maine that offer an amazing backdrop, and can usually find a location that's convenient!
It's your wedding day! Have soooo much fun! Don't stress, I've seen many brides spend the whole day stressing about every little thing, and it never changes a thing, except the mood. Know ahead of time what (or who) will cause the most stress on the wedding day, if it's a family member or guest, have one of your bridesmaid's wrangle them as much as possible. Have someone designated to remind you to breath and relax, surround yourself with people who make you laugh and enjoy the day. You want to look back and remember the fun and beauty of the day, and always have fond memories of the day you said "I do!"
Holly Kangas, mother, photographer, part time chef, and project runway winner wanna be!
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