The struggles of picking a wedding photographer when you’re also a wedding photographer.
Last October, I married the most amazing man ever. It was a perfect fall day in Pittsburgh, PA with a high of 60 and slight cloud coverage. The leaves were still colorful, hanging on the trees in shades of orange, yellow, red and purple. We were surrounded by our closest friends and family. It was amazing! Well, until I got stung by a yellow jacket and then sat in a Benadryl daze for pretty much all of the reception, but that’s a story for another day.
Prior to the wedding, I was a nervous wreck with wedding planning. You’d think when you’re having a small, intimate wedding with only 30 guests, it would be easier, but after planning everything myself, I now fully understand the value of a wedding planner. Just do it.
The hardest decision for me was definitely picking out our wedding photographer. The dress took about three hours, my mom made us delicious cheese cakes, Christian purchased a custom suit and mom and I threw together a bouquet last minute (thanks, Mom!). But the photographer… it took me months to choose.
I had a lot of expectations… after all, I am a wedding photographer. So I started an Excel spreadsheet (would you expect anything less from me?) and did a Google search for “Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer” and off I went. My system of picking a wedding photographer went something like this…
Do they understand lighting?
Pretty much if anything was blown out or under exposed and they put it in their online gallery, they were out. Any weird shadows or direct sunlight, out. Yes, I understand it happens and I know sometimes there is NOTHING you can do about it, but if that’s their best work, their portfolio worthy work, they were out. If everything was properly exposed, I’d take a deeper look…
Do I LOVE their work?
Could I see myself in their photos? Could I see their photos hanging on my wall? I was looking for a photo journalistic photographer, who could capture Christian and my crazy personalities and passion for one another. If I couldn’t see myself in their photos, I was out.
If I loved their style, I’d read their bio. If not, they were out. If they didn’t have a bio, they were also out.
Do I connect with them?
I read every line… I read between the lines. Do they value tangible things like shoes and cars? Do they spend their weekends watching TV and going to the mall? If so, they were out. It’s not that there is anything wrong with these things, but I really wanted someone who would see the world the same way I do. Based on their bio, I assumed that these photographers did not and moved on. Do they love adventure, do they value experiences? Yes? Do they love wine? Have two cats and a dog? Yes? Then they moved on to the next step. I emailed them for their pricing…
Are they responsive? Can I afford them?
When I emailed them, I was very specific and honest. I let them know that I was a wedding photographer, that we were having a very small wedding, that I needed 3-4 hours of coverage with two photographers and I gave them my proposed timeline. As a photographer, I know what type of information a wedding photographer wants and also what a realistic timeline looks like. My philosophy was to save us both time by providing them with everything they need up front. In the end, I ended up messages about ten photographers. This was done in two separate rounds because Christian veto’d all of my first round picks. Thanks, baby. 🙂
If I didn’t hear back, I did not follow up. Responsiveness is very important to me and if someone couldn’t take the time to email me back within a week, then I knew I wouldn’t trust them to show up on time or to deliver my photos as promised. If I did hear back, but they just sent me their generic pricing information that didn’t give me a 3-4 hour quote, they were out. I only considered the photographers that provided me with the information I requested. In the first round I had two to choose from and the second round I had three.
Out of the three that I was considering during the second round, one stopped responding to my emails so I had to choose between two photographers. My first choice was slightly more expensive, but I loved his work the most, so we went with him. He actually sent me a quote for four hours that was outside of my budget, so I told him that and was ready to move on. But he came back to me with a three hour package that fit my needs. As a wedding photographer, I actually love when clients are open and honest with me, when they tell me, “you’re outside of my budget” or “My budget is $x.xx, what can you provide for that”, so that’s what I did. My photographer was great about it, and helped to make my wedding day what it was.
My advice – Find a photographer whose work you love, who you connect with and then send them your budget and ask them – what can I get for this? Having a photographer who you can connect with, who can capture your wedding the same way you see it… it’s priceless.
As you can see by all of the photos in this post, MichaelWill Photography did an amazing job. Thank you!