Good vs. Great Wedding Photographer (aka Pro)

What makes a good photographer a great wedding photographer? Or more importantly, a professional you know you can trust?

Sometimes it is about the service, testimonials and reviews, personality, the extras, or all of the above. But with hundreds of people out there calling themselves photographers, how do you KNOW you have found someone you can trust with the experience you need on a wedding day?

Here is a little help, and insider knowledge, for the average person to find the REAL professionals (and truly great wedding photographers).

bridal-party-portrait

Great photographers can capture outstanding photos even under pressure like I did with this group shot (in a matter of minutes) at Chippokes State Park.

There are 3 categories that really set apart the good, better, and great wedding photographers –
The Photographs
The Experience
Customer Service

The Photographs
This is usually the first item couples think about but how do you KNOW you will get great pictures? Here’s a few things you should be looking for.

– Does the photographer have good quality images (not too dark, too light, orange, etc)?
– Do all the photographs have an altered color or over-effecting to them (can you see the details in the wedding dress)?
– Does the photographer fit the style of what you’re looking for (candid and natural, loud and fun, funky and sexy, etc)?
– Do all the photographer’s weddings have that similar style that you’re looking for? (You don’t want to hire someone inconsistent)
– Do you notice unattractive angles, awkward poses, or distracting backgrounds in the pictures?
– Does the photographer guarantee a 2nd photographer that will provide the same quality of images?

* A good way to see this for yourself is to ask to see an entire wedding and look to see if the quality of photography is consistent throughout

The Experience
You simply can’t place a value on an experienced professional on your wedding day. Your photographer needs to know what will happen before it does, anticipate moments, be flexible on the spot, know how to help you schedule your day to get the photos you want, and be able to conquer any lighting or weather condition. I would say around 100 weddings is what it takes to acquire and perfect the skills needed to be a great wedding photographer (and a degree in photography or other professional experience is even better). Here are a few more questions to ask:

– Have you ever done a wedding like mine? (Note, it doesn’t matter if they’ve done a wedding at your venue. Because of changing light, weather, and circumstantial situations, location is irrelevant to an experienced photographer. But having had experience at your type of wedding (Jewish, traditional, beach, etc.) can mean the difference of them knowing what shots to get and how to anticipate moments.)

– What do you do when ________? (Fill in the blank with any crazy thing you think might happen on your wedding day and see if the photographer can think on their toes!)

– Do you put together family photos? (Your photographer should discuss what family shots you want BEFORE the wedding day and make suggestions based on your family members and the amount of time you want to spend for pictures. This shouldn’t happen on the wedding day! I have a list I email and go over with all of my couples a month before the big day.)

– Do you have a videographer/cinematographer you work with regularly? (You want your visual team to be in-sync the day of so that they don’t get in each other’s way and work well together.)
wedding-albums

Customer Service
You might find categories 1 and 2 great but end up with a horrible experience over all. Did you know some brides go 6 months or more without seeing their wedding pictures and years before they get their album?!? (a professional wedding photographer should have them done in 8 weeks or less) Here’s what to ask to make sure that doesn’t happen to you:

– How long will it be to see ALL the pictures? (If they say 3-4 weeks then ask to see some from the wedding they shot 4 weeks ago and to talk with the couple. Don’t get caught with someone who over-promises and then doesn’t deliver!

– How long does it take to get the album? (Find out the album process step-by-step. Some photographers let you choose your wedding album pictures but if you have a busy schedule be sure to ask if they can select the photos for you or this could cause you not to have your wedding album for years after your wedding.)
virginia-beach-photographer

– Do they have professional backups?
Life happens. People get sick, hurt, or worse. A great wedding photographer will have a great backup plan so you aren’t caught trying to find a replacement a month before your wedding day. And make sure this is part of the contract and read the fine print. (While I offer couples a full refund -including deposit- if they choose to hire another photographer because I am not able to be there many photographers will keep your deposit if you don’t accept the replacement they find for you.)

– What happens if things run a little late?
Weddings are unpredictable and despite the best of intentions, rarely go according to schedule. Not all photographers are willing to stay an extra 15 min. free of charge and might miss important events such as your sparkler exit if you guests take too long to gather. Be sure to ask about their overtime policy and if they are willing to stick around a few minutes longer if needed. (I do!! 😉

– Are they a full-time photographer?
Your wedding is unique and important and you want a photographer that thinks the same way and doesn’t just do this on the side to make a few extra bucks. The advantage is that you’ll receive more attention and care each step of the way, have more flexibility when scheduling meetings or portrait sessions, and your wedding photographs will be a TOP priority because your photographer wants to impress you so you will leave great reviews.

– Do you like your photographer?
This is REALLY important. You will be working together over the next year (or two) depending on when you book – and will most likely spend more time with them than your fiance on the wedding day! So being a great wedding photographer isn’t enough, make sure they have a friendly personality that’s knowledgeable and calming, someone you will want to spend hours with on one of the biggest days of your life.

Have more questions about me? Check out my FAQ page!