Guest: Donna Marie Mandigo | Intimate Wedding + Adventure Elopement Photographer | Donna Marie Photography
Wedding planning comes with a slew of obstacles, one of which is finding and hiring the right wedding photographer. With so many photographers out there, it can feel overwhelming to find a photographer whose style you like, can connect with and fits your budget.
Additionally, it’s not often you look to hire a wedding photographer so you may find yourself lost or feeling nervous. With that being said, I’m here to shine some light and ease some of those nerves when it comes to booking a wedding photographer. While I can’t speak for all photographers that you may encounter, I can provide you a general idea of what to expect as you start the wedding photographer booking process.
1: Find a photographer that you like – in more than just their photography style.
That’s right. Your wedding celebration is more than just gorgeous photos. It is so important to find a photographer that not only creates the art that you envision but is also someone that you vibe with – as they are going to be spending 6-10 hours with you throughout the day. The last thing you want is to have a photographer around that you don’t feel comfortable with. How do you do this? Reach out and start conversations with the photographer you are interested in. Do note that some photographers specialize even within the wedding photography industry – such as myself – I highly prefer smaller, more intimate weddings over large grandeur celebrations. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever work with a couple that chooses to do a large event, it just means that I give preference to smaller events because that’s what I specialize in.
Aside from the main question of date availability, create a list of questions to ask the photographers you start a conversation with. Some questions you could ask include:
- Will you be the one shooting at the wedding? (If not, ask to meet the photographer who will be.) - How many other weddings will you photograph the weekend of my wedding? - Will you have an assistant? - Do you often shoot weddings of a similar size and style to the one we are planning? - Have you ever shot a wedding at our ceremony and/or reception venues? - Do you shoot digitally, with film or both?
While these are just a few example questions to ask, it is a good place to start to get a feel for the photographer’s personality and working style. Remember, you’re basically interviewing the photographer – you don’t want just anyone for this job.
2: Choosing your photography coverage.
Once you have found a photographer you connect with, you will have to decide what kind of wedding day coverage you want. if you’re planning a traditional wedding (and not an adventure elopement – that in itself is an entirely separate blog post entry) aim for 6-7 hours coverage. This will allow you to get those getting ready shots with the bridal party, gorgeous detail shots of the dress and invites, while still capturing all the important parts of the reception. Also think about how many finished images the package includes, whether you get prints, digitals or a mix of both, and whether the photographer provides you with a print release.
Also, definitely opt for the engagement session for two main reasons: First, this gives you and your beau the chance to work first hand with your photographer to ensure that you vibe together before the big day while also putting you at ease with your partner before a camera lens. And second, the images that come from an engagement session can be used for your invites, save the dates, and printed off and displayed at the reception.
Photographers typically have available add-ons that you can choose from to add to your package. Things like a second photographer (which I highly recommend for large events – over 125 guests), albums, bridal sessions, prints, print credits, and rehearsal dinner coverage – just to name a few.
Make sure to talk to your photographer about what is included in your wedding package! Some photographers will provide you with digital images (make sure to clarify whether they are high-resolution or not) and a print release, while others will not and will require you to pay an additional fee to get the digitals or print release (and in most cases this is pricey!!). I will say this, if you don’t feel good about the package that’s being offered to you – find a different photographer. The last thing you want is to experience buyer’s remorse with your wedding photography!
3: The Contract and Retainer
After deciding what photography coverage works best for you and your beau, your photographer should go over a contract with you. This can take place online or in person – many couples opt for the online contract signing which is perfectly fine. The contract will detail the services the photographer will be providing in addition to image turn around time (4-6 months during peak season – June to October, significantly less during non-peak season) and the terms and conditions of the services being provided.
The contract should also detail the non-refundable retainer. The non-refundable retainer amount varies among photographers and secures your date on the photographer’s schedule. This retainer guarantees that the photographer will provide the services detailed in the contract on the date you chose for your wedding celebration. Essentially, the retainer guarantees that the photographer will be available for your chosen date and not book any other commissions for that designated time. The retainer is typically a portion of the package price with the remaining balance due prior to the wedding (anywhere from 30 days prior to the day before). Like with many things nowadays, retainers are most often paid using an online service for ease.
4: After Booking Your Dream Wedding Photographer
Any wedding photographer worth their salt in the industry will make sure to provide their brides with a welcome guide to newly booked couples. Use this guide to get a better idea of what to expect for your big day and to get a better feel for your chosen photographer’s workflow during the celebration. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your photographer in the months leading up to your wedding – share your wedding ideas, thoughts, questions and any changes to your scheduled timeline for the day as this helps you both get to know one another, potentially establishing a friendship!
Reaching out to wedding vendors can be a rather intimidating process, especially for all us introverts (raises hand, myself included!). So, the best thing I can suggest is to just set goals for yourself.
What are you looking for in a photographer?
What features are high priority that are a must?
And which do you feel more flexible on?
Think about things such as editing style, the overall composition of the images, turn around time, budget, and photographer personality. It may take some searching but hiring a photographer that meets (and ideally exceeds) these criteria will help you create a stress-free wedding celebration.
Donna Marie Mandigo