The Process Of Hiring A Wedding Photographer

Although most people have attended a wedding, that doesn’t mean that they will know the process when it’s their turn to go down the aisle. Below is a step by step guide on the process of hiring a wedding photographer.

Step One: Hiring a photographer.

This can be a daunting task even for someone who follows hundreds of wedding photographers blogs. It is recommended that you hire someone within the state that you are getting married. Most wedding professionals travel all over and even if they do not live in the area you are getting married they have most likely photographed there before. Ask them to Narrow your search down to five wedding photographers that you really like. They can be in several different price brackets at this point. Begin communicating with them-choose three you want to meet with in person. The in person meeting is huge because the photographer will be with you the entire day and you want someone not only competent in wedding photography but someone you know you can get along with and wont mind having around. After your meetings you can then choose your photographer.

Step Two: Choosing a package

Hopefully you spoke with your photographer at the meeting about what kind of coverage they offer, and what kind of coverage you will need. Let them help with this they shouldn’t sell you more than you need, but they also should be there to cover all the important moments that will happen on your wedding day. Wedding photographer typical day is 8 hours just like any other professionals work day. That said often 10 hours of coverage is needed in order to begin with the bridal prep and end well into the reception. Your wedding photographer should help you decide if you would like a wedding album (recommended so that your memories are secure in print and digitally) and they should talk you through if they give you the rights to the wedding images or if they keep the digital files etc.

Step Three: Deciding how the wedding day works

There are two models for the photographer on wedding day… the first one is traditional, and the second is with a first look. These models are how we structure the time needed and schedule of the day for photographs.

Traditional: Photographer will come and start with the details at the hotel. Dress, shoes, invitation, rings, bridesmaid dresses, perfume, jewelry, and flowers. After those details have been photographed the wedding photographer will turn their attention to the women and their photojournalistic getting ready photos. This is where the wedding photographer begins to capture moments and build the story of the day. After the bride is in her dress an experienced photographer will often have a first look with the parents-so dad and mom will come in and see their baby girl for the first time in her wedding gown. Meanwhile the second photographer is with the men and taking candid shots of them tying their ties and just hanging out being men before the ceremony. As the bride walks down the aisle at the ceremony the second photographer is taking shots of the grooms expression, and the main photographer is photographing the processional with the bridesmaids and the bride walking down the aisle. After the ceremony the wedding photographer will (with help from the appointed family member) gather up the full family for their portraits. The wedding photographer will begin with the brides side of the family and break it down until the smallest family breakdown (mom and bride, dad and bride, siblings and bride) have been photographed. The wedding photographer will then move onto the grooms family and do the same thing starting with the biggest grouping and breaking it down to the smallest groups. When that is finished it is time to photograph the bridal party. An experienced wedding photographer should be able to get three different posed bridal party shots done in 15 minutes. From there the photographer will photograph just the group of men, and then just the group of women. These two groupings should only take 10-15 minutes and the wedding photographer should know exactly how they want each member of the party or grouping to stand. From there the wedding photographer will take a few portraits of the bride, then the groom, and finally finish up (this whole thing from family to finish should take an hour) with the bride and the groom together. At this point the wedding photographer turns everyone over to the coordinator and the band or DJ. They are in charge of how the reception flows. The wedding photographer will photojournalistic capture the moments from this point on. Even the formalities like the first dances, cake cutting, and bouquet throwing are done in a candid style.

First Look: The Wedding photographer will still meet you at hair and makeup and do the detail shots first. But after the bride is ready the wedding photographer has scheduled the day so that there is an hour and a half of photo time before the ceremony. It begins with a private viewing of the bride from her parents, and then the photographer has chosen an intimate spot with good light for the groom to see his bride for the first time in her dress. The wedding photographer will tell the bride and the groom how to walk to each other before so that they can be in the wings with their long lens getting great emotional moments. After this (generally 15 minutes) the bridal party will be gathered for the bridal party pictures, the women, and the men pictures. This will be about 30 minutes. Finally about 45 minutes before the ceremony the family will be photographed. The bridal party and bride and groom should be finished 30 minutes before the ceremony with all pictures as guests begin to arrive and often the bride doesn’t want to be where she can be seen by everyone. After the ceremony the bride and the groom can take a few moments to be husband and wife and the photographer can take pictures with little to no direction. Then the bride and the groom are able to go to cocktail hour with their bridal party and talk to all of their guests. It is recommended that in the traditional line up of a day there is a receiving line so that you meet all of your guests and don’t have to do it at dinner time. In the first look scenario you can do that at cocktail hour. Again the reception is photojournalistic and candid based for all events.

Step Four: What happens after the wedding

The wedding photographer hopefully explained how they work already in a meeting or in an email. After the wedding many wedding photographers will edit a photographers favorites set within several days and send you an email as well as post them to their blog/FB sites. If the wedding photographer is very busy make sure to ask what their turn around time for all of the wedding photos are. Often times a month is a reasonable amount of time. Also chat with them about their process for culling down the set of final images. It is very important part of a wedding photographers job to edit through and choose the best photos as we have the ability to process thousands of high-resolution images but it is often overwhelming for you the bride to process through that many which is why it is important that we are presenting only the best one of each of the images we take on the wedding day. That will be more than enough wedding images. Talk to your wedding photographer about how they send you the final set of images is it via web or is it via hard drive.

Step Five: The wedding album

If applicable one of the last formal business interactions (as hopefully you are friends at this point) is the wedding album design. Most wedding photographers will begin by creating a version for you telling your wedding story. Then from there you can make changes, edit it, and perfect it to be your favorite images. The wedding album is to take your readers in 10-40 years through your wedding day, so it is often best if you do not choose the images if you let the photographer choose the images to work from. Then as said you can make changes to the album. Wedding photographers are storytellers and this is where their final vision and style can be really seen. In your initial meeting with wedding photographers you saw their album style and hopefully choose someone whose design elements you liked and whose overall feel of the wedding day story through the albums you related too.

That is a summary of the involvement of the wedding photographer, and the process in which the wedding photographer evaluates your day. Each photographer will look for different things on a wedding day, and each wedding photographer will have a unique style but we all will follow a professional and meticulous formula for getting the wedding photos.

101 Steps to Perfect Wedding Photographs

So much will be happening on your big day (and it often goes by so fast) that the photographs you have of the event will be something you’ll treasure and look back on for the rest of your lives. It’s important to prepare properly, to get the best out of your day and your photographer.

Here are my 101 steps to perfect wedding photography:

1) Look at all the photographers in your area (use the internet for this)

2) Ask your friends for recommendations

3) Look at friend’s wedding albums

4) Bookmark the photographers you like (don’t think about money at this stage)

5) After getting a feel for the photographers, decide on your budget (you’ll now have a good idea of who you can afford)

6) Create a shortlist of photographers

7) Call each photographer to check availability (we often book up fast, so call early to ensure you end up with a list of available photographers!)

8) Check out reviews of these photographers through Google / other online review sites

9) If you’re looking for other services (like a band / caterer etc…) ask your photographer, they often can get you discounts with other vendors in the industry

10) Decide on what kind of style of photography you would like for your wedding

11) Compare that style to your shortlist

12) Collect some images that really resonated with you. Create a mini gallery of what it is you’d like your photographs to look like

13) You can keep this gallery electronically, or print it out.

14) Meet with the photographers (if possible)

15) Show them the images you’ve collected

16) Discuss how to achieve your goals

17) Consider doing the main Bride and Groom shoot the day before / morning of / day after the wedding (many couples are now choosing to do this to allow time for many impeccably lit studio-style shots with zero pressure)

18) Discuss your other photographic needs (how many formal shots will you need?)

19) How many locations will you want to shoot in?

20) How long do you want to be apart from your guests after the wedding?

21) Ask them about their strengths (film / black and white / photographic styles)

22) Ask them what style of photography they prefer

23) Do they work with another photographer?

24) Do they work with an assistant?

25) Consider meeting their assistant or fellow photographer

26) Ask them if they’re flexible on changing styles to meet your needs

27) Inquire about their re-touching skills (can they cover up any blemishes that may appear on your big day)?

28) Ask them how long they will spend on re-touching each one of your images? (good photographers will often take 5 – 45 minutes on EACH image they create for you. I often say 40% of the work is in taking the image, 60% is in post-production.

29) Ask for references

30) Ask for a discount!!! (if you’re willing to make a decision quickly, many photographers will offer you 10% – 15% discount for booking early)

31) Create another list of your photographers (in the order in which you like them)

32) Sleep on it for a few days

33) Think a lot about which photographer you like as a person

34) Choosing the right person for the job is about choosing a person you’re going to want to spend a fair amount of time being close to on the big day – so make sure that the person doesn’t annoy you!!

35) Watch how photographers work at weddings you attend – or remember ones you particularly liked, what is it about them that you liked – do these photographers have the same qualities?

36) Compare quality of your top 2 / 3 photographers, versus price

37) Make your final decision

38) Ask for a contract

39) Read the contract carefully

40) Ensure the contract has the correct date

41) Check that the contract ensures you’ll be getting the photographer you expect (and that they can’t change the photographer for anyone else at the last minute)

42) Check that there is a “Statement of work” or something to that effect in the contract (detailing how many hours will be spent on photography / how many images to expect from the day) etc…

43) Some photographers include a model release as part of their contract – decide whether you’re willing to sign one

44) Discuss copyright with your photographer (this can be a complex issue, and one worth reading up about)

45) You’ll only need to buy the copyright from the photographer if you’ll be selling on the images from your big day. If you think you’ll want to do this at some point, discuss how much it would cost to buy the copyright from the photographer.

46) Ensure any copyright agreements are entered into the contract

47) Feel free to ask for changes to the contract if there’s something you’re not happy with

48) Sign the contract

49) Give the retainer to the photographer (often 15% – 50% of the total cost)

50) Ask for a receipt

51) Have your photographer estimate when you will be getting the post-production photographs. You may be anxious to see them quickly, but good photographs take time to produce.

52) Will the photographs be in digital format only or will prints be included in the price of the package. Ask for samples of their printed books to see if you like the style.

53) Begin to create a shot list (Bride with Mum, Bride with Cousins, Groom with best men etc…)

54) Assign a groomsman or bridesmaid to liaise with the photographer on the big day

55) Make sure the groomsmen and bridesmaids are informed on what to organize for the photographer – this ensures you don’t have to worry about a thing (like gathering family members for photographs) on the day. You can focus on looking wonderful and being happy!

56) Begin thinking about makeup

57) Start practicing your smile

58) If you’re still thinking about a makeup artist – ask the photographer for a recommendation – photographers will normally recommend wonderful makeup artists – ones that help make you and their photographs look even better

59) Practice your smile

60) If you’re camera shy, practice your smile in front of a point and shoot camera with your other half behind the lens (this could be fun for the both of you!!).

61) When you think you can’t smile any more, practice again

62) Think about which of the details of the day your planning you’d like your photographer to focus on (I once shot a wedding where the bride, groom and priest were all drummers. “Please get some fun shots of the drums Chris”)

63) Consider having an engagement shoot with your photographer

64) You can use the photos from the engagement shoot for the invitations – or use them online / with Facebook etc… to remind people of the up-coming event!

65) Use the time at the engagement shoot to get to know your photographer

66) Consider the photographs as you look at venues for your wedding

67) Think of the areas of the venue you really like

68) Communicate these preferences with your photographer

69) Ask your photographer whether he’s willing to go to the venue with you to discuss the photographs

70) Ask whether he’s planning to use ambient light or artificial lighting

71) Consider what the weather is likely to be (in Arizona, you’re likely to have Sun, if your wedding is in the West Country in England, you’re probably in for rain)

72) How will adverse weather affect your plans (and therefore your photographs?)

73) Practice your smile again

74) Decide (with the photographer) how much time you’d like to spend on each part of the day

75) Decide whether you’d like to get shots of the preparations on the day (getting dressed / makeup / champagne breakfast etc…)

76) Decide time what time the photographer will arrive on the day of the wedding.

77) Assign someone in the wedding party to meet and greet the photographer.

78) Has the photographer scouted the location before the wedding day or will he/she simply arrive early on the big day?

79) Is this time factored into the total cost of the wedding package?

80) Make sure a member of your wedding party has given the shot list to the photographer either electronically or in person.

81) If you are not ready to start being photographed when he/she arrives, have the photographer start doing shots of the venue, details of the wedding rings, flowers, etc.

82) If you decide to take all of your pictures before the wedding ceremony make sure to schedule the photo shoot long before guests start arriving. You probably won’t want your guests seeing you in your wedding dress before the ceremony!

83) If you insist on only seeing each other after the ceremony choose two private locations in the venue for both sides of the bridal party to be photographed. This way you can avoid an accidental encounter!

84) Tell the photographer how much time you have for the photographs – this way they can help keep you on schedule.

85) Have fun! This is your big day so be relaxed and enjoy all the flashing lights and attention.

86) Keep an open communication with the photographer. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to express what you need. They are working for you.

87) After the photography session, factor in some time to rest and refresh yourself before the ceremony begins.

88) Be very clear with the photographer what photographs will be taken during the ceremony. You want the most sacred part of your day documented, but not intruded upon. You’ll probably want to remember the look in your lovers eyes, rather than the filter the photographer had on his 24-105 L Lens

89) A tip for photographing a beautiful kiss (To have an elegant looking neck line): The Bride should not strain her neck allowing the Groom to do most of the work. Both should turn slightly towards the camera. You can practice this one a lot at home! (especially useful for couples with a height difference)

90) You’re married! Smile and look at the camera. These moments are often printed and framed so be conscious of your facial expression. This is where all of your practicing comes in useful!

91) Gather your shot list to either finish the family pictures or to begin the Bridal Party photo shoot.

92) Be silly and have fun. People often like the less posed pictures so just let loose.

93) Decide how important it is for you to stay on schedule. This is a once in a lifetime event so don’t be afraid to take that extra half and hour to get what you actually want. However, dinner is waiting on you, so have a member of the bridal party watch the clock so you can just enjoy yourself.

94) The most public part is over! Give your partner a kiss.

95) Set your photographer free! Now it is time to get those fun candid shots that can be so memorable and fun.

96) Feed the people working for you – they’re often there for the whole day. From the photographer to the band, a well fed worker is a happy worker (and it will show in their performance)

97) Will there be a first dance? Give the photographer a heads up if anything unusual is going to happen (like dancing on roller skates) so they can prepare and get the best pictures possible.

98) Once you’ve eaten and had a glass of champagne it’s hard to remember the details including how long your photographer has been on duty. Just make sure you have the toast, speeches, and the cutting of the cake whilst your photographer is still on duty.

99) After your honeymoon, you’ll be able to work with the photographer to choose your favorite photographs from the big day. You’ll receive your printed images soon after.

100) Share the online link of your wedding photographs with your friends and family.

101) Now simply enjoy your photos and your new life together!

For more of Chris Noble’s work you can visit his Brighton Wedding Photographer website