10 Things You Should Know When Hiring a Wedding Photographer or Videographer

We get inquiries every day from couples who need help navigating through the maze of hiring a wedding photographer or videographer. This is most likely your first time to get married. You have no frame of reference for who to hire to capture your wedding images, special moments, and story. Over the last 16 years, I have shot over 400 weddings and learned a few things in the process. Here are my top 10 things you should know when you are looking for a wedding photographer and videographer:

  • Quality – In a recent national survey, quality came up as the number one concern of brides. Since weddings are so personal and because your memories will stay with you forever, quality should be high on your list. Thanks to the internet, you can preview the art of most professionals. But, just because someone is listed high in a Google search doesn’t mean that they are a top professional They may be, but high internet ranking most likely means that they spend more money advertising on the internet. I have found that the best artists are so good that they stay busy by word-of-mouth. While the web is a good place to start your search, I suggest checking with the professional associations, a few top wedding planners, and a few friends who got married in the last 2 or 3 years. Then, set about 3 appointments to see the work first-hand of your top choices. Ask to see examples of recent work and let them tell you about their process and what you will receive. Then get it in writing.

  • Reliability – How many photographers or videographers did you have to call to get a retuned call? How long did it take for them to get back with you? If they don’t get back with you in a 24 hour period, there’s a good chance that they may not show up on time to your wedding or drop the ball in some other area, too. I don’t understand why a “professional” can’t answer a call within 24 hours of someone who wants to invest a lot of money with them. The operative word here is…professional. Do they do what they say they’ll do? Again, ask wedding industry professionals for referrals, and ask other brides with the same taste as you for referrals. Don’t give up…there are some great professionals in the mid-south.

  • Legitimacy – I hate to say it, but occasionally we see on the news where a couple hired someone to shoot their wedding and then deliver what was agreed to or what was expected. Do your homework, ask other professionals, check the BBB, and talk with friends who were happy with their experience. Ask for credentials, reviews, and testimonials. I’m always happy to provide this information and more than happy to share the contact information of my brides.

  • Style – Weddings are personal. Make sure that your photographer and videographer consistently shoot and edit in a style that you like. These are your images and your video…forever! There are many, many photographers and videographers available and each has their own style and personality. Make sure there’s a fit.

  • Personality – Have you ever met someone who you admire from afar, but when you meet them in person…you just didn’t click? I have! Again, weddings are very personal. The person who shoots your wedding will spend a LOT of time with you. Make sure you like them, trust them, and really like them being around you all day. The best way to do that is to meet them in person to discuss your wedding. If that goes well, grab them quickly because finding a great artist who you really like is important. The good ones get booked fast.

  • Consistency – One of the key marks of a professional is consistency. They have mastered their craft and most likely does continuing education to hone their skills. A true artist is always striving to be better with each assignment. when you meet them, look at lots of samples of their work. Is there a consistency in quality, style, and a look that resonates with you?

  • Availability – This one kind of relates to reliability. Do they answer their phone when you call? Do they get back with you quickly? A good photographer or videographer will be responsive and available, or they will have a member of their staff available to you within a reasonable amount of time. I recently had pneumonia and was ill for almost 6 weeks, yet I always got in contact with my clients and prospects as soon as possible.

  • Reputation – It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build a good reputation, and only one mistake of the professional or an employee to become a news story. Sad…but true. Most of the professionals in our community are awesome. There are a lot of “weekend warriors” and “newbies” that entered the market in 2008 during the crash. Some are good. Many are not. Don’t let a low price be the reason you lose your wedding memories or have a horrible experience. Look for a seasoned professional. Just because you are a good commercial photographer or baby photographer doesn’t mean that you can handle the pressure, keep a bride happy, and deliver what is expected. Weddings are a tough business for lots of reasons. The great professionals earned their reputations one wedding at a time. Ask around and interview those professionals with a great reputation. And, check references.

  • Price – Every wedding professional I know hates this question: How much do you cost? It is the first question out of most couple’s mouths. Why? Because this is most likely their first wedding. They don’t have a point of reference. They have no idea what really good wedding photography or videography costs? They don’t know how many hours are needed (besides the wedding shoot) to create a professional product. We all live within a budget of some sort no matter how much money we have. While price may be important to you, it is not the most important thing. Do your research to find out what is a fair price to pay for each service you want. Be honest about your budget. True professionals will have options and can probably create something that will work within your budget and give you the memories that you want. If they can’t help you personally, a professional will know of someone who can help you.

  • Community – Most photographers and videographers are small business owners. Often they are members of national associations like PPA, WPPI, WEVA, NACE, and local associations like The Mid-South Wedding Association. This is a huge benefit to them and you! In case of an emergency, often association members will pitch in to help you. These members all good reputations, abide by a code of ethics, and continually study to become better professionals. Ask if your photographer or videographer belongs to a professional association and what they are doing to make their industry better.

Whatever questions you have about planning your wedding or honeymoon, there is a professional member who can help you at The Mid-south Wedding Association.

Don Lawler is an award winning producer, photographer and filmmaker with 40 years experience in broadcasting, 16 years of experience shooting weddings, industry educator, speaker and writer. You can contact him at STORYTELLERS - Filmmakers & Photographers at don@wetellyourstories.com or 901.485.3027.

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