As engagement season (those lovely months between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day) comes to a close, we’ve seen a rise all over our many social media connections of brides seeking information to better help them choose the right photographer to capture their big day! After all, when the last sparkler of the night has burned out and the excitement of your wedding day has come to a close, what remains besides your brand new partner-in-life and that shiny new ring are your wedding photographs. That’s why it’s so important to choose wisely. You have made “once-in-a-lifetime” memories. They ought to be showcased in a manner that reflects all of the magic and beauty of your wedding day.
Many of our brides turn to the internet to find the perfect photographer. I would say that at least 50% of our inquiries come from brides and grooms who find us via Facebook, Instagram, or one of our social media platforms. The wedding market is currently saturated with a wide variety of photography professionals featuring a large range of styles and pricing options, and it can be completely overwhelming trying to sort through all the websites out there. For the Central Pennsylvania area alone, there are over 500 photographers with some form of listing on “The Knot.” They range from “budget” to “luxury” level in pricing and encompass a plethora of styles. How do you choose the one that is right for you?
Lindsay Eileen Photography has partnered with Monika of the Lancaster Wedding Connection to bring you this blog post in hopes of first narrowing down the kind of photographer you are looking for, and then, to provide you with some “must-asks” to make sure that the company you choose truly is legitimate and professional.
Narrowing down your choices
1. Decide on a style that you LOVE!
This is definitely in my opinion the first step in choosing your dream photographer. At Lindsay Eileen Photography, we specialize in a style that is considered bright, airy, romantic, natural, and modern vintage. If that style is something that appeals to you, you wouldn’t waste time combing through websites featuring a different style. Other popular styles are: dark and moody, “looks like film”, editorial, high contrast, lifestyle, and journalistic. Once you know what you like, that narrows down the number of websites you will browse through.
2. Decide on your photography budget.
This is one area of your wedding where you truly do get what you pay for. On average, in the Central Pennsylvania region, a good professional has packages ranging anywhere between 2-5k. The more your package includes, the more expensive you can expect it to be. If a price seems “to-good-to-be-true” then it probably is. We have seen an increase of devastated brides posting on social media recently because they chose a photographer offering what seemed like an awesome deal only to have it backfire later on. If money is a little tight, find ways to cut back on other expenses. Photography definitely isn’t something you want to cheap out on.
3. Ask your newly married friends who they used.
Were you recently a bridesmaid in a wedding where you really enjoyed the personality of the photographer your friend chose? Has your friend been posting tons of images from her big day that make your heart flutter just a bit? Make that person one of the first people you contact. You already know your friend had a GREAT experience. We love it when our clients refer their friends our way!
4. Google “VENUE NAME weddings”.
Using a search engine to look up weddings photographed at your venue can be a great way to find a photographer. You can also use Instagram to see who has photographed at your location. We always try to tag the places that we shoot at, not just because we want to increase our visibility, but also because we like to give venues credit for being absolutely awesome!
5. Look at their reviews.
If a photographer has their Facebook reviews completely turned off, we personally find that a bit concerning. Sure their have been instances where a photographer was targeted by someone not related to their business so they’ve temporarily turned their reviews off to avoid false claims, but in general, most professionals will have a good supply of client reviews for you to read. We don’t always recommend asking for references as most of us like to keep our client’s personal information private, but in the case of no visible reviews, we would certainly recommend asking for some. Check the Knot, check Wedding Wire, and check the BBB to make sure no claims have been filed.
6. Be mindful of how quickly they respond to your initial email.
Most professionals will respond within 48 hours to a quote (don’t count weekends and holidays). If you’ve waited more than a few days to hear from someone with no response, move on as this could become a problem later on. We recommend checking your junk mail as well since there have been times where quotes have ended up their instead of in the appropriate inbox! Our clients have several means of getting in touch with us. Our brides with Facebook have the option to friend our personal account as well as become a part of our private group just for them. It’s a place where they can share planning tips, vendors they love, ask/answer questions, and just have a good time! They also have access to our email and phone number as well. It’s important that you have more than one method of getting in touch with the professional you choose.
Questions to Ask Your Favorites:
1. Are you licensed and insured?
This is HUGE. I cannot stress enough making sure that your photographer is licensed (an official tax-paying business) and carries insurance. Here is a website where you can look up businesses in the state of Pennsylvania: https://www.corporations.pa.gov/Search/corpsearch
If you type our name in there, you’ll see we are an LLC. We also carry business insurance and can provide proof of that. Some venues require that vendors submit copies of their insurance before being permitted to shoot a wedding at their facility, and we are all for it! A professional photographer will have both of those things.
2. How many weddings have you photographed?
This is really important too. I recently saw a post in a Facebook group I am in where a heartbroken bride didn’t realize her photographer had never shot a wedding before hers. She currently has very few pictures, and the ones she does have are very poor quality. There is a huge difference between a photographer who has shot two weddings and a photographer who has shot 50+. We joined the over 50 club last year, and we couldn’t be more excited for the 30+ couples we have on our list this year!
3. Are you a natural light photographer only or do you bring light modifications for indoor/dark ceremony and reception spaces?
If your wedding is completely outside, you can for the most part get away with little light modification. However, most of our weddings take place with either the ceremony or reception (sometimes both) indoors! While our dreamy natural light portraits are what draw in most of our clients, we are well aware that the same approach will not work in a barn or a dark church. We do bring flashes with reflectors for light bouncing that we use whenever needed as well as a video light. If your wedding is at all indoors, you would want to make sure your photographer is prepared for that. Also, they NEED to have backup gear.
4. What’s your “rain plan”?
As much as we hate the idea of someone’s big day getting rained out, it’s important that your photographer has a plan to cope with the wet skies. There are several things we recommend to our clients when we see the weather forecast for their big day looks less than spectacular. The three top things we recommend: clear umbrellas, shoes to wear outside (no one will see them anyways), and to be flexible with your timeline.
5. Will YOU be photographing my wedding?
We see a lot of interest in nationwide companies like “The Pros” in the many Facebook groups we are in. One of the downsides to those kinds of companies is that you often cannot guarantee WHO will be photographing your big day. Other photography companies take multiple weddings on the same day and send out associate photographers to shoot them. One of the benefits to a company like ours is the chance to get to know your photographer on a personal level. The same person who shot your engagement session is the same person who will be cheering you on when the wedding day finally arrives.
6. Have you ever shot at my venue? If not, have you shot at a venue LIKE mine?
Part of what we love most about our job is the chance to travel to various states and shoot at so many different locations. Even though we shoot 30+ weddings a year, the number of repeat venues is on the low side since we travel so much and new venues pop up all the time. It’s not really a concern if your photographer hasn’t shot specifically at your venue. I would however be concerned if you are getting married on a farm and your photographer has never shot a barn wedding before!
7. Do you have full galleries that I can see?
Yes. Yes. And Yes!! We enjoy the chance to showcase our couples’ weddings. It is really important that your photographer is willing to show you some full galleries as it gives you a good comparison as to what your final gallery will look like. Also, it helps keep photographers from showing work that isn’t theirs. We have seen several devastated brides lately who received images that were extremely subpar to what their photographer had been advertising. It turns out that the photographer had been using images they had not taken on their website, and many brides were consequently mislead.
8. When and how will I receive my images?
Some photographers deliver a gallery with downloadable images and a print release (We do!!), while others prefer to send out a USB. Some photographers give you a gallery but then require that you purchase professional prints from them. Our turn around time for weddings is 2 months, and we have found that this is pretty average. You would also want to ask if your photographer gives a print release. A print release allows you to print your images wherever you’d like. Some photographers give them, and some don’t. This is completely different from the “copyright”. The copyright belongs to the person who took the picture (your photographer) and unless you are one of the Kardashians, there’s really no reason you would need it.
9. Are my images “retouched”?
We retouch all of our images for light, color, clarity, and etc. before placing them in our client galleries. Extensive retouching (removing someone from a picture for example) is made available for an additional fee, but we’ve never actually had someone ask for it. Not all photographers retouch their images. Some will retouch their favorites; others won’t retouch at all. This is another good reason to ask for a full gallery.
10. HOW do we book our date with you and WHEN should we book?
The answer to HOW should ALWAYS include a signed contract!!! I can’t stress this enough. Read the contract carefully. In ours, we explain our policy and procedures, copyrights, image delivery, and a bunch of really helpful things. The contract is to protect both of us. We also require a 25% retainer. The amount of retainer required by each photographer is different, but it is almost always part of the booking process. The answer to WHEN would be as soon as possible. Most of our clients book us between 1 and 2 years before their big day. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from inquiring about our availability anyways. You never know what a photographer might have open!
We know that was a ton of information, and thank you so much for reading to the end! Our goal with this post is to better educate couples so they can make wise choices regarding their photographer. Weddings are magical things, and we firmly believe they should be documented in such a way that generations to come can enjoy looking back on the love story of their ancestors!
Venue: Lauxmont Farms
Rental Company: La Lucia Boutique
Flowers: Splints and Daisies
Gown: Azul by Liancarlo from POSH Bridal
Cake: Sugar Petals Cakes
Hair and Make-up: Beauty by Khara
Paper Goods: The Art of Etiquette and Touch of Class Calligraphy
Shoes: House of Elliot
Purse: The Cork Collection