It’s Engagement Season. The months of November and December are the most popular months for proposals… it’s like the future grooms out there have this secret society? November rolls around and it’s game time. I have to say, as a wedding photographer, I appreciate it. Typically, this is our slow season. Many of us are gearing up for the spring, working on websites, marketing, etc. So, it’s nice to have the inquiries from happy, newly engaged couples coming in. No joke, on Christmas day, I received 3 inquiries; all engaged within that day. It really got me thinking – What draws a bride in and helps her ultimately decide to book a photographer? This doesn’t just apply to weddings either, I think many of the points below can also apply to other genres like newborn or family photography.
PORTFOLIO – PERSONALITY – KNOWLEDGE OF LIGHT – TURN AROUND TIME – REVIEWS AND REFERRALS – CONSISTENCY
1) Portfolio – What draws you in? Do you lean towards clean and crisp or do you gravitate to soft and light? Do certain images by a photographer take your breath away or convey a certain feeling? Do you like a candid and photo journalistic approach or do you like a more posed and magazine style? Photography is very subjective. So, the first qualifier will be the portfolio. Once you figure out your style – it’s easier to narrow down. For myself, I shoot very clean and crisp. I’m drawn to bright and bold colors and I love fun. I like to blend both candid and posed into my wedding photography – more of a healthy mix approach. Below are examples of both…
2) Personality -Truthfully, I think this is very important. Are you a shy soul or an outgoing bolt of lightning? Do you mind standing in front of a crowd or prefer to sit in the back and observe? I consider myself an accomplished photographer, but, I know a big part of why I am hired is because of my personality. It’s all about connections. You can see it in my work. I strive to “connect” with my couples. I want them to trust me and look to me as the professional and a friend. I love walking in to the room of the bride when she is getting ready and being greeted with hugs and appreciation. It makes it all worth it. Over the years, I’ve learned who “my” bride is… Believe it or not, I feel like as photographers we can chose our clients just like they chose us and it makes it so much better for everyone. And… we will be spending an entire day together during many intimate situations, so it is imperative that there is a certain chemistry. With that said, Engagement Sessions help for the couple and the photographer to mesh. So many times, I’ve had a couple comment after the session about how much fun they had and “that wasn’t so bad”… 🙂
Bailey and Max are an excellent example of this… I loved working with them. We connected. Bailey wanted to replicate a fun outtake from their engagement session on the wedding day – and it was kinda priceless.
My fellow photogs, I know what you are thinking… as artists, we’d like to think we are chosen by our work alone. It’s just not so anymore… I remember the good ol’ days when I would receive an inquiry and easily book a wedding without a phone call or meeting, however, today’s brides are a lot more hands on with photography and what they want for their day. Ultimately, this is the better route for everyone.
My sweet bride, Dana, is a great example. She was referred to me by a wedding planner (shout out to Sara Fields with Wedding Connections) and photography was very important to her. We interviewed over the phone and it was a great match… both the engagement session and the wedding were so much fun and the pictures definitely showcase their personalites.
And. Come on… how many photographers would encourage a snowball fight? UMM. Yes, please. Me! I woke up giddy for this New York wedding… it was snowing and I knew from Sonya’s personality that a snow fight would definitely be happening after the wedding.
3) Knowledge of Light!! I’m not gonna get all techie here, but, this is key. Wedding photographers should be comfortable in any lighting scenario. Which means… they should know how to use a flash. Don’t get me wrong, natural light is my favorite type of light and I would shoot with just natural light all day everyday if I could, but, that’s just not reality… There are various forms of lighting techniques that we as photographers love to implement. This can also apply to the Portfolio section above. My knowledge of flash and off-camera flash has grown over the years with practice and persistence and I don’t know how I could shoot a wedding or portrait session without complete confidence in these techniques. Brides, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask to see a photographers different uses of light.
Ashlee and Josh were married in Cancun, Mexico and we had so many great locations to shoot. Check out the two shots below. Completely different looks with off camera flash versus natural light. I love both.
And a few more examples:
4) Turn – Around – Time: Okay. This is gonna be controversial to some of my fellow photographers, but, in the digital age – turn around time is very important. I’ve actually been hired by a bride because of my turn around time. She had narrowed her decision down to myself and another photog. In her opinion, our work was similar and we matched on personality/pricing… so the deciding factor was turn-around. Sadly, my competitor lacked on this… by not just weeks, but, by months — several months… Here’s the thing future brides: If you are waiting on your images more than 8 weeks – that is not good or professional. And, to my photog friends… don’t hate me, but, let’s keep it real. If you are overwhelmed, there is always outsourcing. I am happy to admit that during my busy season, I outsource editing. Does it cost me? Yes, quite a bit, but, it is worth the satisfaction from my clients and let’s face it “word of mouth” and “reputation” is everything in this industry. It will make you or break you. I could go on with this, but, for myself, turn around for a wedding is 2 weeks and during busy season 3 weeks max.
5) Referrals and Reviews – Where do I begin? I mentioned above that reputation is everything. It’s true. Brides, do your homework. Check online reviews. Ask for references. You might be surprised at what you find. Shameless plug:
6) Consistency – This can again fall in to the Portfolio section, but, is the photographer you are considering consistent in their work? Are quality images produced time and time again? The 2 images below show what I’m talking about… both receptions held at the same venue, Biltmore Forest Country Club, and, with the exception of the cute couples… it could be the same scene, right? But, these weddings are 3 years apart.
Are these 6 qualifiers all that you should consider when choosing your wedding photographer? No. But, hopefully, this will help you as you head into your wedding planning process. It will be a whirlwind. Enjoy it if possible! Just remember, after the big day, your photos will be all you have to remember it by… xoxo