How to find the best wedding photographer that right for you!

Using My Easy 3 Step Sam Method!

Nowadays choosing a wedding photographer is no easy task and one can’t be too careful!

We have all heard the horror stories of bad photographers. You might even know someone who has been so unhappy and disappointed with their wedding photos, right?

Over the years I have not only heard the stories, but have met some of these unhappy couples .

Once a client asked me to rework her wedding images to see if  I could make them a little bit more appealing since she said:

“I hate them!… I hate them!!…Sam! ..I HATE THEM!!!”

Another maternity client told me that they waited almost two years for their wedding images.

Most recently a good client of mine, from Johannesburg, asked me to edit a wedding that her friends shot. He recently turned pro and he was still learning how to use photoshop. When I received the USB, Man! was I shocked! I could not belief that anyone could actually charge someone for such poor work.

I felt so sad for this couple that I decided to write this article and show you my Easy 3 Step S.A.M. Method on how to choose the best Wedding photographer for you.

So let’s get started:

In this article you will learn:

  1. Why there are so many Bad & Inexperienced Photographers around?
  2. Why you should not ask wedding photographers those magazines and online articles questions?
  3. How to find the Best Photographer that is right for you and your budget.
  4. What to look for in your photographer and their work.
  5. How to test your photographer before you hire them.
  6. The Meeting with the photographer (Some points on what you should discussed and agree on ).

All this by simply using my easy S.A.M. Method!

Why are there so many bad & inexperienced wedding photographers today?

A lot more people nowadays are looking for ways to earn extra income and to escape the rat race. With advancements in digital camera technology more and more people are confident to entering the field of photography.

What make matters worse is that most Bad Photographers think They are actually Good. Jamie Windsor made a video about this cognitive bias …watch his video.

What they don’t know:

  • Photography is not about your equipment nor your camera. Photography is all about knowledge, skills, light and the photographer’s interpretation of the scene or composition, the so called “Photographer’s Eye…”
  • A wedding is one of the most difficult events to cover. The lighting conditions changes constantly from harsh light, to low light, to no light. To photograph a wedding takes skills and experience.
  • A good wedding photographer also knows that there are certain shots that they must get, like: the first look, the first kiss, the rings, the first dance, etc.
  • A wedding photographer needs spider like senses. They must instinctively know when one of those really special moments are about to happen. Like a little wink from dad,  mom wiping a teary eye or your hubby touching you softly just as he leans in to give you a kiss.  You know the spice of life moments!! The best wedding photographers are always ready to capture these moments.

This is what you need from your photographer, right?

Why you should never ask those questions from the wedding magazine and online articles?

The internet and wedding magazines are full of articles and post on what questions you should ask your wedding photographer.  

Many of these articles are very helpful, but believe me most photographers have read these articles too and they have prepared their answers for you.

They just can’t wait for you to ask them questions like:

“What camera do you use?”

What do you love most about photographing weddings?”

“How would you describe your photography style?”

“What would you compare your work to?”

“How many weddings have you photographed?”

And so forth… They can’t wait to blow you away with their well rehearsed answers!

But don’t fear I will teach you my simple S.A.M method to make sure you get the best photographer for you.

My 3 step S.A.M. method to find the best photographer.

S  is for Search: Search the web and Identify 2 or 3 of the best local photographers whose work appeal to you.

A is for Action: Take Action and book a shoot – First Experience the Photographer undercover before you appoint them.

M is for Meet: Meet and agree -Get the most from the meeting with the photographer and the important points to discuss.

Now let’s look at the S.A.M. method in more detail!

Step 1): Search the web:

Search for local photographers.

Why:

  • Local photographers know the local conditions.
  • Chances are good that they have worked the venue before.
  • They might even know your wedding official.

Only go with a traveling photographer if you have the budget or want to take your trusted photographer along.

Next look at their online photo portfolios and choose 2 or 3 photographers whose work really stands out for you.

Also look at their social media feeds to find their latest work (Uploading photos to a website is a mission and most photographer update their Facebook or Instagram accounts more frequently).

What to Look for:

  • You don’t just want to look at their shooting style but also at their consistency. Be wary  if you see that their work fluctuate from wedding to wedding. Chances are that the work is not their own.

Don’t get me wrong there are talented newcomers that enter the the market each year and they are worth a look. Remember for a wedding you actually want an experienced photographer!

Only consider a talented newcomer if you really can’t afford the services of a pro. I will always recommend that you book the pro for a shorter time span. I would rather have the key moments documented well and have nice photos of my wedding formals than have 100’s of poorly taken images of family and friends parting the night away.

Step 2): Take action and book a shoot:

Contact the photographer whose work you like the best and book a couples shoot on location.

Also check their pricing. If their fee for the couples shoot is too expensive then chances are that you won’t be able to afford them for your wedding. In this case just book the next photographer.

Important: Don’t tell the photographer that your are scoping them out. Do not even drop a hint; You want to keep this candid; you what to experience the real photographer and not some salesman trying to sell. 

Choosing a Location:

Choose a location that has a similar setting to your wedding venue. If you’re planning a beach wedding then have the shoot on the beach, if its a botanical wedding choose a park etc.

Don’t worry too much about laying out extra cash for the shoot, you can always use these images (if they are good) for your invites, website or as save the date photos.

What to look for during the shoot:

Important: You must have a good experience! Full stop!

People Skills: Do you like them, can you work with them?

Remember the photographer will be in your face the whole day. If they stress you out or upset you then this will show in your wedding pics.

Shooting angles and camera rotation:

Check if they varies their camera angles and rotate their cameras between landscape and portrait shots. They should not take all their pics from the same standing position. a  Pro-photographer will not hesitate to lay on the floor to get that shot.

Do they shoot with a flash!

Most pro photographers will use their flash even in day time. They will use it as a fill light to light up some shadows or to give light direction on an overcast & grey day.

There is nothing wrong with shooting ambient or natural light, just make sure that the photographer knows how to use his flash. Remember he will most likely be shooting indoors and at night.

Run if they say the following:

“Don’t worry; I will edit you slim”

or

“I will edit makeup on”

Why? It takes hours, even days, to edit someone slim and to do so for every wedding pic makes no commercial sense. A good photographer knows how to pose you better and will choose different camera angles that will compliment you little more.

Take note how long it takes them to deliver your images.

If it takes longer than a month then check what’s the holdup.

If they offer any of the following excuses, then move on to the next photographer on your list!

“It takes time to create a master peace”

“I personally edit each image by hand”

“I have a team of editors and we are behind on schedule due to my popularity etc.”

“You wanted me to edit you thin, right?”

Any of the above or similar excuses is risky!

Slow photographers can lose your images. Hard drives can crash, files can get corrupted, lost memory cards etc.

There are only 3 reasons in my opinion why photographers take so long:

  1. They take on more work then what they can handle.
  2. They are lazy and lack discipline.
  3. They try to fix their bad camera work in post production.

Inspect the images:

  • Once you receive the images you need to make sure that you are happy with the quality and quantity.
  • Check the that the images does not contain too many photoshop effects and overlays. Which is often used to hide sloppy camera work.
  • Check that the images are in focus and not blurry. The images must be sharp, clean, crisp and not over or under exposed.
  • Watch out for over editing. Laura Alpizar wrote a nice article on over edits with some examples… Read The Article here
  • Print one or two images at your local print shop just to make sure the colors and quality of the photos are good.

Once you are happy with the quality of work, then go to the next and final stage.

The meeting.

Ask the photographer for their wedding packages and check if they are available on your wedding.

If you are disappointed at any stage with the photographers, his pricing or his work then move on to the next photographer and follow the same procedure.

Meeting with the Photographer:

Now that you have an existing relationship with the photographer, you can relax a little and you should have a good meeting. You can also spend more time on the important stuff and less time on questioning their abilities.

  • During the meeting you want to establish timeframes not just of when you want the photographer to arrive and leave the venue, but also when will your images, photobooks and other prints be ready.
  • You want to know if the photographer is personally going to cover your wedding event. Be aware some photographers might send a replacement if they find a better paying job.
  • Stipulate that you want high resolution, unwatermarked images. You do not want any nasty surprises here! Some photographers will supply you with low resolution images, full of their watermarks ,that you can’t do anything with. They might even charge you extra for the hi-res images (normally per images).
  • Make sure you understand who holds what rights to your wedding images. This varies from country to country. In South Africa the copyright is own by the person who commissioned the photographer. Some photographers might even charge you licensing fees and who knows what other stuff.
  • Also it’s a great opportunity to bounce wedding ideas, schedules and itineraries off the photographer and ask for their input. Remember that the photographer has attended  many weddings during their career and knows what works best. This information could be valuable.
  • You also need to know what contingencies are in place; should they not be able to photograph your wedding.
  • Agree on the package, rates and payment terms. If a deposit is required to secure your date, then make the payment soonest. You want to tie the photographer up quickly someone else does.
  • Know the terms and conditions around your deposit; what happens in the event that you move or postpone your wedding?

Congratulations and all the very best!

Remember to S.A.M Them!

S= Search the Web and narrow them down to 2 or 3.

A =Action Book a Shoot -Experience them first before you buy.

M = Meet and Agree the terms and conditions that you want -also bounce you plans and ideas of them.