Finding the right photographer for your wedding is about more than picking someone who has a style you like or who fits into your budget. You’ll be spending most of your wedding day with this person, so he or she should really be someone you actually like and get along with. Otherwise, you’ll be going through one of the most emotional (and possibly stressful) days of your life being followed around by someone who annoys you. The problem? There’s only so much you can find out about a person from a website and portfolio. Instead, treat hiring your photographer like you treated meeting your fiancé for the first time: like a date! We spoke with photographer Gina Esposito of Gina Esposito Inc. about why dating your photographer is the best way to guarantee a fantastic day-of experience, and how to make that meeting as insightful and productive as possible. Don’t sign that contract until you’ve read this!
Do Your Due Diligence
“Begin your search with a little groundwork and research so you can narrow down your list of preferred photographers based on their style and professional experience,” says Esposito. “Browse their websites, read the bios, check out their portfolios, and read client reviews. Assuming it’s all positive, select a few who you really like on paper, then get ready to narrow it down based on personality.”
Great news: You don’t have to take every single photographer out for coffee. Start by reading a photographer's blog, which will give you a sense of his or her passion and point of view. “Blogs and articles are like a peek into the photographer’s journal, where you can read about their experience of a wedding day through their own eyes,” Esposito explains. “Is it all business? They might be a better fit for a more traditional couple. If they really seem to engage with a playful curiosity and a sense of humor, they could be great for an adventurous and fun-loving couple.”
Finally, of course, do what you did when you were about to head on a first date: stalk social-media feeds. “You can learn a ton about their voice, personality, aesthetic, and recent activities from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter,” Esposito says. She also notes that it’s a chance to see locations where they’ve previously shot (maybe your own venue!) and see what their relationship is with past couples. Are they chatting via tags in captions or comments? Does it seem personable and familiar? This could be a preview into your upcoming experience as well.
Set a Date
Since you’ll spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than any other vendor, hitting it off personally is a must. “Meeting in person is the best way to make sure you’re comfortable with their personality and aligned with their temperament,” says Esposito. “How do they carry themselves? Are they warm and engaging, confident, and experienced? And are they genuinely listening and reflecting and understanding of your priorities?”
The biggest reason you should try to meet with your photographer is that the chemistry you have with one another will directly impact the quality of the product your photographer delivers. “It’s more than just how they operate independently—it’s about how they create and collaborate together with you,” Esposito says. “Having an atmosphere of friendship will allow you to forget about the cameras and enjoy the moment, which is where truly incredible photos come from.”
That’s All Great…But What Should You Talk About?
“Your meeting should begin by talking about the two of you and your wedding plans,” says Esposito. “Talk about your relationship, your vision for your wedding day, who will be there, and what your priorities are. This makes it more of a conversation and less of an interview (which is always nice when you’re trying to make friends!) and also lets you share your interests and gauge if your photographer is on the same page.” It helps your photographer get a sense of where your priorities lie and also opens the door for commonalities to emerge. This is where your photographer should chime in with anecdotes, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in who you are as a couple, not just the logistics of your wedding.
Next, talk about the timeline. “A helpful photographer will work with you to craft a realistic timeline or advise you on the details of your existing schedule. You’ll get a better sense of their role throughout the day, as well as get a feel for their work ethic and see if they’re willing to go above and beyond,” says Esposito. “For example, we always research the exact sunset time for the day of the wedding and help our couples plan accordingly. This is a small step that goes a long way, especially for weddings that occur just before or after daylight savings time, and is the difference between a glorious golden-hour portrait session and one in the dark.”
Remember, the two of you aren’t the only ones being photographed. Talk to your photographer about any important dynamics, and see if he or she can handle it. “Some couples just want to know they can rely on someone experienced to help them navigate what will happen throughout the day, from a large family that is bad at following directions to a type-A bride who just wants to enjoy the moment on her wedding day. Give your photographer an opportunity to let you know if they’ll be a good fit, as well as to prepare and help create the best experience on your wedding day,” says Esposito.
A detail you can’t skip? Asking to see an entire wedding’s worth of images, not just a portfolio of highlights. “This will give you a holistic view of how that photographer tells a story of someone’s day, from start to finish,” says Esposito. “You’ll want to look for a variety of perspectives and a combination of wide angles and tight shots. The work should feel authentic and show consistency in shooting and editing.” Of course, no two weddings will look the same, but the overall aesthetic, whether light and airy, warm and intimate, or rich and moody, should be one that appeals to you. “And make sure the quality of each wedding they deliver is the same as what you see on their website!” Esposito adds.
Should You See Each Other Again?
“You’ll know if you clicked when you get the warm fuzzies,” Esposito says. “This is the point in the meeting when you, your fiancé, and your photographer have gotten all the necessary topics out of the way, when you’re chatting about life and wondering why you didn’t bring a bottle of wine.” If you’re all truly comfortable with one another, with seamless banter, easy conversation, and the sharing of stories and dog photos, that’s when you know.
But it could go the other way. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:
- The photographer is slow, spotty, or flaky with his or her communication, response time, and attention to detail. “There’s much more than the photos themselves. The level of service should match your expectations and gain your trust so you know you’ll be in good hands on your wedding day,” says Esposito.
- The photographer is trying to convince you to book him or her. “Any respectable artist won’t get pushy. We want clients who understand and appreciate what we do, so if someone is trying to force your hand with scare tactics (e.g., ‘If you don’t book now, you might lose your date’ or ‘If you sign now, we’ll give you 10 percent off’), walk away,” says Esposito. He or she is either an artist or an undercover used-car salesman—not both.
- The deal seems too good to be true. “If the prospect of a great deal trumps an aesthetic you love, take a break,” says Esposito. “Budget-conscious couples can get swept up in the excitement of a deal, then later regret not working with someone who resonates with them.” More isn’t always more, so beware of packages that seem robust because they offer extras like prints and thank-you cards; it could be lower quality masked by bells and whistles. “Ask yourself if you really want a 4x6 print of every photo from your wedding day or if you’d rather spend the same amount on a more limited package with a photographer who you really love,” Esposito explains.
Date Your Photographer, Bring Your Fiancé
Did you get all that? Well, Esposito and her team are offering even more: the chance to really experience working with her before anything gets signed. “We are inviting our couples to join us for a ‘date,’ where we’ll meet at their favorite location in NYC, chat in person, and then do a complimentary 30-minute photo session,” says Esposito. “It allows us to get to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere, establish a relationship, and give our clients a peek into what it would be like to work with us on their wedding day.” After your date, you’ll get five digital images from your shoot, a risk-free glimpse into your on-camera chemistry and a look at what it will be like to have Esposito and her partner, Sheena Meekins, shadowing you on your big day.
“After 13 years in the wedding industry, I realized that connection is the most important thing when it comes to great wedding photos,” says Esposito. “You get to try on your dress, taste the cake, and listen to the band, sampling every element before you sign a contract. So why not have the same experience with your photographer?” So if you’re the type who needs a little more quality time before you sign on the dotted line, this is for you. Make sure you’re not only in good hands but in good company.