Weddings & Life with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer,
Taylor Nicole Photography
So you’re engaged, you’ve started dreaming of your wedding day in real time and details are coming together. You’ve probably heard that booking your photographer is one of the first steps in wedding planning and I think that’s right. Wedding photographers tend to book dates, especially popular dates like Saturdays in Summer and Fall, 12-18 months in advance. So whether you have your eye on a certain photographer or you’re wondering where to even begin your search for the right photographer listen in to this episode. I am going to share all the tips from deciding which photography style might be right for you, the best way to reach out to a potential photographer, and helpful questions to ask before booking your photographer. I am so excited to dive into this episode with you!
This is titled 101 because I bet I will think of more to share on this topic one day. I obviously want you to know as much as possible about this subject, since I am a wedding photographer myself. I plan to give you a lot of tips and behind the scenes perspective on this process.
So let’s start out with a blank slate, you have no idea who to choose as your photographer, no one particular in mind. There are about 8 million options when you google it and everything looks different. How do you choose?
Here is my process from starting from zero- choose your favorite style of photography, then start your search considering your budget
My ideal outline of this would be- style, search, shop, then book
Things to consider about your preference in photography– Editing style & posing style
Okay so styles are tricky and everyone feels differently about them. Here are my general photography styles, and photographers can fall into multiple of these categories!
- Light and airy- brighter images
- Dark and moody- dramatically darker images
- Bold and vibrant- very colorful and stand out images
- Warm or earth toned- images make you feel nostalgia and bring out the warmth in light
- True to color/true to life- editing that keeps the colors as they are, not warm or cool just true
- Photojournalistic- moment or story driven
- Editorial- much more posed, like you could see in a magazine
- Fine art- personally I feel like I see a lot of fine art photographers in the editorial category too. I might consider film photography in this category. Fun fact photographers who incorporate film and digital into their services are called hybrid photographers. I am actually growing into the fine art film direction in my own business. I am a wanna be hybrid haha!
So knowing these styles maybe take some time to google or pinterest search and see if any of these resonate more to you.
Next, Start your search!
- I will always say that referrals are your best source. So if you have a friend who loved their photographer or if you were a bridesmaid in a wedding and you loved that photographer then go check them out!
- Instagram hashtags are a good place to start. Also seeing images in the tagged section of by your venue. Instagram is a fun way to search because the profile grid is a great representation of the consistency of a photographer’s tones and editing.
- Google search your venue, or wedding photographers in your city. I personally love the image tab because then you can just click on the images you like.
- There are also platforms like wedding wire, the knot, Zola and probably a bunch more
- You venue might have given you a vendor list, so check out the photographers listed.
While you’re searching compare any pricing information you can find on photographer’s websites, as well as check out their reviews online. Usually google or the knot are good places to find these.
An in-between step here might be having your date set at your venue. It won’t help you very much if you find a photographer you love and then you end up booking a date that they are unavailable for. I know for me I prefer that my inquiries already have their date set. If not nothing is really set in stone moving forward.
3- Okay so next steps are to reach out to potential photographers. Compare your options with your budget. I’d say you can reach out to several photographers, but then the next step would be setting up a phone call or some sort of consultation and I would recommend only choosing a couple to do this with. If for some reason neither of those photographers work out then you can move on to the next ones. But from a vendor perspective when I get a potential client on the phone with me they are usually fairly convinced they want to hire me. And if you are leaning away from hiring that photographer then why waste your time? These calls are basically like an interview and by the time you’re entering this consultation I’d say you should be able to picture yourself actually hiring this photographer. But that’s just my opinion. I will say that the more calls you have the harder it will be to remember the first few you spoke with and details can blend together.
Here are helpful questions to ask and things to consider during your consultation or before signing a contract with your wedding photographer.
- Has this photographer worked at your venue before? Now note, this is not a deal breaker! To be honest sometimes the first time in a location I feel more creatively inspired than ones I’ve used often. On the flip side working at a venue often will set a vendor up to know the ins and outs and be prepared if something changes like the weather.
- Can you see examples of finished wedding galleries?- This lets you see what your future gallery could look like. And you get to see more than just the highlight images shared on social. Make sure you like the consistency of their work from getting ready to portraits (think family portraits here too, those are important and more often than not these are actually the photographer’s least favorite part of the day, I actually don’t feel this way but I’ve heard this a lot.) If you’re wondering my least favorite part of the day is toasts haha. I hear a lot of bad ones, and it’s not a photo rich moment like others.
Anyways, when you’re viewing the finished galleries try to think about what this style would look like at your venue. Obviously if the gallery happens to be a wedding photographed at your venue then that’s easy! If not, that isn’t a deal breaker, but consider your day. Are you having an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception? Or an indoor ceremony in a low light scenario? Just make sure that you like this photographers shooting style and ability in your lighting scenarios. I try to do this with my inquiring couples, if their venue is outdoor ceremony and indoor reception I try to send them a previous gallery to look through that includes these settings. This actually is my number one tip when hiring a videographer too. Just make sure you like their style and that you know what their style translates to for your specific timing. To make this an extreme example- I have photographed a church wedding in a gorgeous historic church in downtown Colorado Springs. This chapel had little to no window light and a few harsh stage lights. No lighting in the aisle. I am a photographer who utilizes flash, so when I got the go ahead from this church I ended up setting up four flashes throughout the room to properly light the ceremony, entrances and exits. My work for this wedding would look very different compared to a photographer who didn’t use flash. No good vs bad here, just a very different feel and style to the photos.
- What is included in their editing? Do they edit acne? What about background distractions like power lines? Will they do intensive photoshop edits like fixing hair or adjusting body shape. Now know these are extreme examples, and the majority of photographers out there will not provide these editing services, and personally I agree with the intense photoshop jobs, I would never alter body shape in wedding portraits. But what I’m trying to prevent is you going in expecting flawlessly retouched, pore-less skin like the magazine covers and then your photographer having to inform you later that no they don’t provide that service.
The thing I’ve started sharing with all of my incoming clients is that no I will not alter body shape in images. I usually phrase this as a joke like you know all of those moments when someone says ‘Oh they can photoshop that’ … well no, no I will not.
- How many images will you receive? Don’t worry if there isn’t an exact number answer to this. Honestly I would be more nervous if a potential photographer told me an exact number vs. an estimate. If they said you will receive exactly 700 images, you could wonder what if any other images had turned out but weren’t delivered due to the quota/ image cap. I always try to tell my clients a range of images relating to their wedding day in length, bridal party members and any other information they’ve given me. As well as an average number of images I have delivered in the last season. I am not going to share my average range because I really don’t want to be pushing a right or wrong answer here. I just want you to know what this could mean for your wedding photos.
- How are the images delivered to you? Will you download them online? Will they mail you something?
- What are the image use rules such as are there watermarks on images you share online? Will you have to tag the photographer every time you share your photos? Can you print your own images? Or do you have to order prints through your photographer? Will you receive the full image file size? Also something to note, photographers, myself included do not allow you to edit the images after you receive them. This is because a reason you are hiring that specific photographer is to receive your images in their specific style. Editing their images after you receive them is a no-go!
Ps. Now is a good time to stop and explain a common question I see that is more often than not mis-informed. Can I get the raw images? You might have heard of raw images, and if you’re into photography maybe you know what those files are. But more often than not someone will ask for the raw image thinking that this file is the biggest size and would print the best. That is incorrect. The raw file is directly out of camera and then the photographer edits in their own style and expertise via the raw image, then final images are created by merging the edits with the file and creating your jpg. Raw files are not supported on most devices, definitely not on many phones. They are huge file sizes, and photographers love these because they can use all of this information to edit and create with the files, but know that in general a raw file is usually lacking contrast and color balance. Raw files will look nothing like the final images you will receive from a photographer. And word of advice, just don’t ask if you can have the raws. That’s just a photography no go in my opinion.
Okay so those are questions that I’ve gone into detail on, here is just a fast list of questions. I will restate the first several and then add to the list to help any one out taking notes.
- Have they worked at your venue before?
- Can you see examples of finished wedding galleries?
- What does the editing process include/not include?
- How many images can you expect to receive?
- How will you receive your images?
- When will you receive your images?
- What are the image usage rules?
- The emergency questions- what happens if they get sick/can’t show up on your wedding day?
- What happens if you need to reschedule your wedding?
- What happens if you cancel your wedding?
- What is the payment schedule? What’s due now and how many installments. How can you make your payments?
- Do they offer wedding albums?
- What does the process of working with this photographer? When will you communicate, will you have a phone call closer to your wedding date to discuss details or will that be communicated via email?
- Do they offer engagement sessions? What does that include? When can your session be scheduled?
- What is their posing style or method?
Okay so those are questions you could ask when you’re chatting with the potential photographer. Now after your consultation here are things to consider and ask yourself as you make the decision:
- Are you comfortable around them? Could you be friends? Was it awkward as heck? Know that you’re going to spend a lot of time with your photographer on your wedding day so you should at the very least be able to tolerate them.
- I do initial consults almost every week throughout the year and I have a heck of a lot of award calls. Usually when it hits a certain level of awkward I can usually guess the they won’t go with me. Which is totally fine, I want them to connect with their photographer and not feel awkward themselves on their wedding day.
- Did what they presented in the consultation match up to your hopes for your photography?
- Example- you love the photographer but when you went over details you realized your budget would only get you half day coverage when you were really looking to have a photographer there the whole day. This might be a sign to look for vendors in a different price range or to up your budget. Either way try to see if your hopes and expectations are matching up to what they can offer.
- Do you like how they communicate and the general plan and style they have for your wedding day.
How to reach out to potential wedding photographers
Okay and the last section of this episode will be helpful tips about how to reach out to wedding photographers, and these might apply well to other wedding vendors too. So when you’re reaching out to a photographer-
- Please use their website contact form. While Instagram and Facebook messages are easy for you these are most often lost in the mix and you might not hear back. And if you do hear back you will probably be directed to the contact form anyways. We include a lot of helpful information in the contact form that we will need to know from you eventually and probably even before your consultation.
- Cold phone calls are fun and all, but you’re basically expecting us to be waiting by our phones doing nothing other than waiting for your call and ready to take notes. Even if I answered random phone calls, which I don’t any more because they’re all spam, I would end up asking you the questions that are on my website contact form. So I would highly recommend looking for a contact form online. We are usually pretty darn intentional with how we set those up!
- Write an actual message when that is allowed or prompted. Like in my contact form I have a space for ‘telling me your story or more about your wedding plans’
- Here’s my best tip… first, don’t leave this section blank. We want to know more of your plans to help see if we are a good fit and leaving it blank might mean you didn’t want to take the time to let us get to know you and we have to start from ground zero moving forward.
- Next, do NOT write something along the lines of “how much?” Or “how much you charge?” Or “I am looking for a photographer that does’t cost an arm and a leg, how much is a wedding with you?” First of all, I don’t know how much your arms and legs are valued at… maybe $500 or $5000. Same goes for saying something like ‘I am looking for a reasonably priced photographer’ hmmm well I obviously know that while my prices are reasonable for me to run my business it doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for every couple and budget. Try to understand how messages like these could come across rude and devaluing to a business that you are considering investing in.
- Don’t expect to hear back immediately on a weekend, cough cough weddings…
- If you hear back and want to move forward and set up phone call or consultation.. also don’t expect to do that on a weekend. Again weddings! In general photographers work weekends and evenings. That takes us away from our loved ones who have normal work schedules so I can promise that even if we don’t have a wedding that particular weekend day we sure as heck plan to spend that rare weekend with our loved ones and will want to keep our meetings to our regular office hours.
- Do not ghost them. Vendors are real and yes we get actually excited when we receive inquiries, it means that our business is literally going to continue to grow haha. So when we respond to you don’t just disappear. I mean you can, we are used to it.. but here are some responses to send to potential vendors/photographers when you decide to not book them. Try a sandwich email. Thank you, then fact then Thanks again.
- Thank you so much for this information. I have chosen a different vendor but I appreciate your time.
- Thank you for sending this over. With my budget I don’t think this is the best option for me. Thanks again for your time.
- Those might sound cheesy but go ahead and copy and paste those into an email for them. No it’s not a warm fuzzy email to receive but it lets us know that 1. You’re taken care of and we don’t need to wait to hear back from you anymore 2. You acknowledge that we are humans too and gave us your time in responding.
Whew, when I was outlining this I expected that this could be my longest episode yet… no big surprise there that as a photographer I would have a lot to share about choosing your photographer. Overall I hope I didn’t sway you in any direction. I truly believe that not every photographer is the best fit and that you can find one who is perfect for you and who you love working with!