How to choose your wedding photographer and why it is so important to hire a professional

This list of questions was sent to me by the editor of Seattle Metropolitan Bride and Groom Magazine.  In the last issue I was the expert asked to talk about photography. Unfortunately, due to space the entire piece did not run. I thought I would post it here. I hope this helps when trying to select a photographer. When in doubt, go professional. You have no idea how many calls I get at the last minute when a friend flakes out on the day! It is so important to remember that when the wedding is over with, all you have are the photos!  Hiring someone like me will make your day last forever in photos.

1. How long have you been a wedding photographer and what other kinds of images and moments do you like to capture?

I have been shooting weddings for 20 years and love what I do. My love for photography began as a child. I love photographing people and moments that go unnoticed.

2. What would you like couples to know about the job of photographing their big day? What would you like them to know about photography in general—before they even make that first phone call to you?

Photographing their wedding is a organizational undertaking. The most important thing for the couple to know is that I take a lot of pride in what I do. They are hiring me to give them my experience to make sure the day goes smoothly. I treat others how I want to be treated and they can expect that I will take care of both of them as well as their families.  I ask a lot of questions to get to know the couple and make sure that the fit is good. The actual day of the wedding should go flawlessly as we have prepared a great photo shot list, a schedule of the day and have planned everything out so there will be no surprises. The most important thing the couple has to do on their wedding is to look fabulous and have fun!

3. What question do couples never ask that you wish they would?

I am really uncomfortable being photographed and the center of attention, how can work on this?

4. What kinds of bad experiences have you had that have informed your practice and made you a better photographer? What kinds of nightmare situations can couples avoid?

The worst experiences have come from people not being prepared. Couples can be stressed due to family issues one of which is having divorced parents. The easiest way to avoid any situations is to be clear with the photographer about any issues with the family and it is my job to make sure that there are no uncomfortable mishaps.

5. What should couples know about the expense of wedding photography?

Wedding photography is the most important expense that a couple should incur for their wedding. Once it is all over and done with all you have are the memories and the photographs. What is the first thing people grab in a tragedy, be it fire, flooding, etc. People get their family and pets out and then they grab their photos. Hiring a skilled photographer can not only make the day go smoothly it captures moments of a lifetime.

People are now under the assumption that digital has made our lives easier. I feel that it has actually done the reverse. The industry is now saturated with amateurs with expensive cameras who don’t have the same experience level or an artistically trained eye. These are people with full time jobs who enjoy photographing as their hobby and to make a little bit of extra money. Most people don’t realize that once the wedding is photographed digitally, the average photographer spends the rest of the week in front of the computer editing their images. The photo labs used to be the ones who did all of the post processing. It is now up to the photographer to become both technician and lab.

6. What goes on behind the scenes that contribute to the costs you incur and the hours you spend making their memories just right?

Advertising, computer maintenance, marketing, phone calls, meeting time, uploading images, camera maintenance are just a few of the behind the scenes things that go on to make the complete package just right for the couple.

7. What can couples do in advance of meeting with you?

In advance of meeting with me, I ask the couple to review my website and write a list of questions they may have for me when we meet. I also send them to view complete online weddings that are posted for my clients once the wedding photographs are ready. These are password protected sites that are available to the family and friends of the couple. I have clients view these photographs so they are able to see how I photograph a complete wedding. Not just the specific images posted on my website.

8. What can couples, and their attendants and families, do on the day of to make your job easier-and the pictures more perfect?

I like to get photo shot lists from my clients so I can be sure I know what to expect from them. Most importantly they should have fun and let me handle everything. I also have the clients introduce me on to the important people on their photo shot list.

9. How long after the wedding can couples expect to see their first sets of images? Waiting is always the hardest part!

My normal turnaround is about 6 weeks during the busy summer months. I often can turn weddings around much more quickly when I shoot film.

10. What trends do you see in your industry? How is technology making it easier to do what you do?

The biggest trend I see right now is the “trash the dress” photos. I personally had been doing this with clients who want to push the boundaries for years. I am always trying new things to make the photos more interesting. It is really up to each client to understand how far they are willing to go to make creative images.

Digitally cameras are continually improving every year and they allow you to see the images more quickly.

11. In what ways can couples and photographers take an earth-friendly approach to their wedding day photos?

The most earth-friendly way is for couples to choose digital photography. They then can pick the images that they desire and not get prints of everything photographed.

12. What can couples do to determine whether or not they “fit” well, in terms of personality type, aesthetics, and point-of-view with their photographer and other vendors?

I feel it is important for couples to use their gut reaction for hiring a photographer and any other vendor. This is an important lesson for hiring anyone. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep in mind that you are hiring a professional. Does the vendor return your call in a timely manner? Does the vendor seem excited about what they do? Do you feel good about sharing your day with this person? Do you think they will be fun to work with? These are all important things to factor in on your decision.

13. Do you consider it important to have a personal connection with the couples you work with?

Absolutely! I find the personal connection incredibly important with the couples I work with. If they are comfortable with me then it will be reflected in their photographs.

Another way I get to know my couples is by photographing their engagement portrait. We can then have an opportunity to work together as well as spend time getting to know one another.

14. What would you say to folks who are considering having a friend or family member handle the shutterbuggery?

I do not advise people to have family or friends have the sole responsibility of photographing their wedding. One of the reason’s people hire a professional is that we have the expertise to photograph the entire event and tell the story of the day. In most cases, family and friends don’t have the experience of what to photograph on the day of the wedding. They also want to be a guest too! There are often tricky lighting situations, fleeting moments as well as funny things that happen that a trained professional will know how to handle quickly as well as notice what is going on. Often family members and friends are distracted by the people they know at the event and their sole purpose begins to appear to be more of a guest. Also, the amount of stamina to photograph an 8 hour wedding is pretty unbelievable. Most friends and family begin with good motives but they tend to get the more cookie cutter images and not all the quirky moments going on in the periphery.

15. There’s a movement away from formal portraits, but I know so many couples who regret not having a really perfect shot of themselves from the day. How do you balance the desire for that documentary look with the need to have those classic moments on “film”?

I know how important it is for people to have fun at their wedding and having to pose for the typical portraits can be no fun. Picking a fun location as well as trying new poses and pushing the boundaries of the typical poses can make for a more positive experience.  I do all of the “formal” portraits before the wedding begins, that way, once the ceremony begins, the couple doesn’t have to worry about posing. Keeping your portrait shot list simple can make it a much faster portrait session. I spend the rest of the event documenting and telling the story of the day with images. That way, the couple can have both looks.

I hope this helps. If you ever have any questions. Feel free to give me a call at  206.760.3336 or write to me at: dani@daniweissphotography.com. I look forward to photographing you and yours!

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