PART 1 | Starting Your Photography Search:
Deciphering Your Needs and How to View Websites

Candid portrait of Nikki, Michael and Lily. Photographed at Chequessett Yacht & Country Club, Welfleet, MA. Medium Format Film.

Candid portrait of Nikki, Michael and Lily. Photographed at Chequessett Yacht & Country Club, Welfleet, MA. Medium Format Film.

For my first Blog subject, I’m excited to share some advice for those seeking a wedding or event photographer. Part 1 will help guide your initial search; Part 2 will provide brief technical and creative advice for the non-technical/creative. Future Parts will provide the expertise of other types of vendors, in their words: how to choose the right florist, planner, makeup artist, etc.

It goes without saying that this is not a one-size-fits-all subject. Photography is an art form and people appreciate and relate to art in different ways; coverage and presentation options vary between different photographers; we each have our own shooting styles, personalities and pricing structures. No comparing apples-to-apples here!

Questions to discuss with your fiancé and/or family include:

1. What are the top 3-4 most important elements of your wedding day or event, for which you would consider hiring above-average vendors? Does photography fall within this top 3-4 for you?

2. What is your wedding/event budget? Most specialists suggest 10-15% for your photography portion. Although I’d like to suggest keeping it closer to 15% if photography falls within your top 3-4 priorities, I’ve personally seen photography portions range anywhere between 5-50% of budgets - literally - so this is not an exact science. The important thing is to prioritize and be realistic. Likely, you don’t need the best of everything; but you’ll want top quality for those aspects of your wedding or event which will mean the most to you before, the day of, and after.

3. What do you want your photos to look and feel like? Do you prefer posed or candid shots? Do you like natural light photos or those with a more theatrical-style lighting? Do you like a more traditional look, a documentary look or a stylish/fashion feel to photography? Do you want a photographer to provide lots of direction or someone who is more of a fly on the wall? Keep in mind: there’s lots of grey area here. But as artists, we all have our specialties and processes. So it’s important that you decide what you want and need, and equally important what you don’t want and need.

What to look for when visiting photography websites:

1. Does the photographer show complete weddings/events from beginning to end? If not, I’d request samples of recent stories so that you can get a feel for their process and quality of work throughout an entire day. I believe it’s important that you not base your thoughts on limited subject matter (ie, just romantic photos and bouquets); your wedding or event is much more than that, so it’s important that you see all aspects of our work, from details to dancing, and everywhere in-between - the whole story.

2. Try to look past the design of web sites and truly see the actual pictures. Consider the site design as the “frame:” what’s important is what’s inside. Look closely at the photos: are they properly exposed, or are they very light or dark? Can you see the detail in the white wedding dress, or are the whites often blown out? How does the photographer’s work compare between natural bright light, natural dark light and artificial light? Although we all have our own artistic styles, you want to select a photographer who is also a technician and can work in virtually any and every lighting condition.

3. Can you envision yourself in these photos? Do they make you smile? Do they make you feel? If you feel connected to a stranger’s photos, imagine how you’ll feel when that’s YOU in the photo! If you feel bored or uninspired looking at the photos, keep it moving.

4. Read our bios. How much professional experience does the photographer have? Is this a full time career or a side job? If this is not clear on the site, just ask. Most importantly, do you like, agree and relate to the photographer? You’ll work with your photographer the longest and closest of all of your vendors - so personality is important!

5. Read our reviews and testimonials by our clients, and our endorsements by fellow industry professionals. Their words are valuable.

Make notes and questions and select 3-5 photographers you’d like to learn more about. When I need a specialist of any kind, I’m not just hiring them for their service or product; I’m also hiring them to educate me so that I make the right decisions moving forward. So make sure that whoever you are interviewing is communicative, patient, transparent and timely. Check out Part 2 | Completing Your Photography Search: Brief Technical & Creative Advice for the Non tech/creative.

Email me anytime for topic suggestions and feel free to comment, ask questions and share. Thanks for reading!

Peace, Love & Happy Planning,
Dana Siles