You’re Engaged! But What’s Next?

So you have decided to tie the knot. Congratulations! 

Don’t believe the skeptics; real love exists, and it lasts! I would know — my wife and I have been married for over 30 years. We met at a New Year’s Eve party, had our first date four days later, and never looked back.

To state the obvious, your wedding day matters! It’s possibly one of the most important and happiest days of your life, a day dedicated to the two of you. So of course you want to get it right! But, I have good news as well. If you prepare, hire professionals, relax, and have fun, the day will be perfect. 

To help guide your next moves, I’ve put together this guide to what to do once you’ve said “yes”. 

First things first

Before you do anything else, you need to hire a wedding planner!

As someone who has worked at over a hundred weddings in the last three years, I am a fan of wedding planners. I will write more about why I believe wedding planners are vital for a smooth wedding celebration in a future post, but for now let’s just say, the right wedding planner will do all the work and let you relax and enjoy your own wedding! 

Once you’ve found the right planner, one who understands your vision for the day,  it’s time to do things like settle on a location, start drafting a guest list, and last but not least, look for the right photographer. 

How should choose a photographer?

As you can imagine, I have a couple of ideas. 

As I mentioned above, in the last three years I have photographed over a hundred weddings, which means that I have spoken or corresponded with over two hundred couples, and that’s not counting the engagement shoots.  The following advice is based on my experiences of couples who hired me, couples who chose someone else, and several couples who hired someone else, but then came back and asked me to redo their portraits (Yes, that happened too!)

You only get one chance to make a record of your wedding day, so make sure you do it right. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a wedding photographer.

It’s a matter of style

Before you begin searching for a wedding photographer, take the time to investigate current wedding photography styles. You can do this by browsing wedding photography Pinterest boards, wedding style magazines, wedding blogs, and Instagram influencers. Why? Because, with the ubiquitous presence of cameras, everyone is a “photographer,” but a professional photographer is an artist.

And in order to select the right artist, you have to do a little research to see what you like and most importantly, what you don’t like.  Look for a photographer whose portfolio speaks to you, correlates with your vision of your wedding day photos and simply matches your style. After all, by hiring a wedding photographer, you are not only hiring someone to memorialize your wedding day; you are embarking on a creative collaboration. 

So, make sure that you and your photographer see eye to eye!

Strange advice: If you are going to do an engagement shoot, which I hope you will, pay attention to what the photographer is wearing to the shoot. If your photographer comes to the shoot sloppily dressed, their shirt stained, hair unkempt, or they look like they just came from the gym – be careful. 

Yes, artists have an image of being eccentric—= it’s part of the package—but not sloppy. Don’t forget, no matter how artistic your photographer is, they still have to show up to the venue, on time, with an extra camera. In other words, eccentricity is great, sloppiness is a giant red flag.

It’s a matter of chemistry

Most couples don’t realize this, but on one of the most important, most personal days of your life, you are going to spend a lot of time with your wedding photographer.  Think about it, your photographer is going to follow you around, photograph you getting ready, putting your dress on, having your hair and make-up done. The photographer is going to meet your family, friends, and your in-laws. They are going to be snapping photos of you saying “I do” and they will be there with a camera the moment it first hits you that you are actually married. 

That’s a lot of intimate moments to share with a stranger!  So, make sure that the chemistry is right.

Of course, the best way to discover if you are compatible is to do an engagement or a couples shoot beforehand. This more relaxed shoot will give you time and space to get to know your photographer and become more comfortable with them and in front of their camera. 

Regardless of whether you are planning on a couples shoot or not take the time to connect over Zoom.  See if the chemistry is right.  These days all photographers have Instagram accounts, both professional and personal. Follow them on social media. If you can, not just their professional account, follow their personal account.  Read their blog posts! See what interests them. Ask questions. Start a conversation.

It’s a matter of quality

High-quality wedding photography should cost a lot. 

When you hire a photographer, you are not just hiring someone to snap photos, you are hiring someone who spent years learning their craft. I will not tire of saying this: you are hiring an artist. Art is expensive because it’s an investment, one that will earn returns forever as you and your family will go back and look at those photos for years to come.

Also, a great photographer will spend more time editing the images than photographing your wedding. My rule of thumb is that for every hour of a wedding, it will take me about an hour and a half to work on the images.  Just like your caterer will spend more hours preparing the food than serving it, a photographer will spend more time editing the images than photographing your wedding. 

When planning your overall wedding budget, be realistic about what you can afford and allocate a reasonable portion of your overall wedding budget to ensure you get the quality you desire.

Strange advice:  Ask your future photographer when they last went to an art museum. The best photographers—the true artists—spend a lot of their free time in museums and art galleries. They spend their time studying, admiring and getting inspiration from the works of other artists.  As part of your discussion with a potential photographer, ask about their favorite photographers. Before you ask, mine are Jonas Peterson for wedding photography and Julie Blackman for family photos.  Not only are these questions great ice breakers but they will help you separate a professional from an amateur. 

It’s a matter of savings

When you are thinking about your wedding photography, there are places where you can save money without losing out on the quality of photography. Here are some ideas:

Save on the number of photographers

I will be brutally honest: you don’t need a second photographer to photograph your wedding. The photographer you hire will have a particular style and vision for their work.  Let’s imagine, for a second, that you decide to have your portrait painted and decide to hire Pablo Picasso. Do you think it would make sense to have Salvador Dali act as an assistant? The entire event would turn into a giant mess! And it’s unlikely that you will end up with a coherent looking portrait. Same with two photographers at one wedding.

So, when a photographer tells you that you will get a second photographer for “free,” I am not sure what they mean. Nothing in this life is free, especially the services of a high-quality photographer with a limited wedding season.  So most likely, the second “free” photographer is either an intern or a photographer who is just starting out. Yet, you are being charged for both Picasso and Dali.  

If you are not convinced by my analogy, and still believe that  you need a second photographer, make sure that the name of the second shooter is in the contract and that you have researched that photographer as much as the first.  Take a look at the styles of the two and see if they can be matched up well in one shoot and make sure to ask, who will be doing the editing. 

Save on number of hours of photography

I often talk with my clients about how many hours of photography they really need.  I understand the impulse to capture every moment, every smile, every dance. Many clients insist that they need 10 hours or more.  But I am being honest here, you don’t need more than 7 hours of photography. You really don’t. 

Think about it: how many photos of your friends dancing or people eating do you really need?  Yet, towards the end of the evening, that is all that is really happening and that is all a photographer will have to photograph. Also, although any good photographer stays out of the way, people get tired of having their picture taken and at some point, they just want to relax. The longer a photographer stays, the more photos they will take and the longer they will spend editing the images. At the end of the day, that leads to your photography budget going up, with no additional value. So if you are thinking of trimming costs, all you need is seven hours of photography. 

Save on prints

Here is some more untraditional advice: don’t buy prints from a photographer.  There are so many printing options out there today, that there is really no reason to buy a standard, boring print.  Different shots work best on different media. For example, some will look great on metal, others will shine on acrylic or glass, while others will stand out best on paper. What about putting your wedding photo on a wood print? 

I invite you to think outside the box here. Once you have your photos, talk to your photographer and ask their advice on the best way to print your favorite images. 

Pro tip: ask your photographer for the lab that they prefer to use and please, please, please don’t go to CVS or Walmart for prints! 

Ok, I think I have rambled on long enough! I hope my long post gave you some ideas on how to find a wedding photographer that is right for your wedding.

If you like my approach to my work, check out my work, follow my social media account, sign up to my mailing list and I would love to talk to you about the last exhibit that I saw. So please feel free to reach out, start a conversation and see if I am the right photographer for your wedding day.