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Wedding photography is a big deal. After all, this is how you'll look back on your wedding for years to come! And finding the wedding photographer who is the right fit for you can take hours of web browsing, numerous interviews, and a whole lot of thought — but the hard work is worth it!
If you're thinking about hiring a photographer with less time under their belt, you'll want to make sure that you've got all of the details in order. We talked to Dani Cowan, the fine art wedding photographer behind Dani Cowan Photography, to get the 411 on things you should keep in mind and questions you should be sure to ask when hiring a photographer, whether your wedding is their first or their 1,000th.
Ask to see a portfolio.
Just as you would with any photographer, ask to see extensive examples of their work. "Understandably, someone who is new to the industry will have a smaller portfolio of wedding photography," says Cowan. "But ask to see other portfolios, like portrait photography. If they're taking photography seriously, even a newbie photographer will have spent hours upon hours practicing, whether it's shooting for paying clients or capturing friends and family members." Sure, weddings are completely different than posed sessions, but this will give you a feel of their shooting and editing style.
Ask about their equipment.
"The photographer makes the picture, not the camera, but having professional-grade equipment is important," Cowan explains. Ask what the photographer shoots with, especially if you'll be having a dimly-lit or indoor ceremony or a darker reception (as most receptions are!). "In these instances, lighting equipment is extremely important. This will give you insight into how prepared they will be on your wedding day."
Make sure they're legit.
Ask for proof of your photographer's registry as an official business, as well as their business insurance. "This is what sets the professionals apart from the hobbyists," Cowan says. "It will also give you peace of mind to know they're covered, and that they take this business seriously."
Find out who they trained with.
Some photographers jump head-first into the wedding industry, but most people pay their dues assisting or second-shooting for another, more established photographer first. "The latter scenario is ideal," Cowan advises. "A photographer who has spent time working alongside a pro will know what to expect, how to handle difficult situations, and has had an opportunity to learn from someone with more experience in the industry." Just as interning for a major corporation in the corporate world is respectable and a great thing to have on your resume, second-shooting or assisting a successful photographer shows that a photographer has started their career off right.
Check their background.
If your photographer worked with an experienced pro before starting their own business, talk to their old boss for some insight. "When I first started, I had permission from two of the main photographers I second-shot for to share their contact information with brides who were looking for a reference," says Cowan. You'll get an insider's review of how your photographer works on a wedding day, what their style is like, and what they're like to have around for 8 hours straight. And if your photographer has experience in any other part of the wedding industry, consider this a plus — it means they'll have knowledge of how weddings work from the other side of the camera, too. "Before I started photographing weddings, I worked for my mom's wedding planning and design firm. To say this has helped me during a wedding would be the understatement of the year!" Cowan adds.
Be prepared for some hand-holding.
A photographer who has shot fewer weddings may not be as familiar with the ins and outs of a wedding day timeline. "Give them a detailed timeline of the day so they know what will be happening when. You want them in the right place at the right time to capture your big day true to how it happened!" says Cowan. You run the risk of missed moments if your photographer doesn't know that your mother is singing during the ceremony or that toasts will be happening during dinner.
Put together a list of must-have shots.
"Give your photographer a detailed list of who you would like pictures with after the ceremony," Cowan says. "Since they haven't spent as much time wrangling group shots, having a list of who should be photographed with whom will relieve some of the 'unknowns,' and will ensure you have the photos you really want."
Sign a contract.
This is important for the couple and the photographer. "It sets up the expectations, as well as the boundaries, of what is being agreed upon," says Cowan. "Look for a contract with lots of details. Exactly how many hours of coverage are you agreeing on? When will photos be ready? How many photos can you expect to receive? What happens if the photographer gets sick the morning of the wedding?" A contract full of unanswered questions is a huge red flag, even if everything else about the photographer is amazing. Adds Cowan, "A true professional, no matter how many days, months, or years of experience they have, will care to have this all covered."