After I bade my family farewell and the whirlwind weekend came to a close, it was time to hunker down and start choosing our vendors. We knew we wanted to have a pretty heavily DIY wedding, so we had decided ahead of time that the only vendors we’d be hiring were the venue, the photographer, and the caterer—those were the three things we felt it important to leave to the professionals; everything else we could either do ourselves or “hire” friends and family to do.
Wedding photography is extremely important to me, and having a photographer that my control-freak self could trust 100% to capture the day accurately, naturally, and in full was extremely important. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about a venue yet—that’s because we didn’t have one. We started with the photographer. I actually started researching photographers before we were even engaged, because I wanted to be able to jump on one the second the ring was on my finger. To start, I made a list of must-haves/deal-breakers that I was looking for in a photographer:
My list of MUST-HAVES included:
- Clear photos, crisp focus
- Uses natural/ambient/available light as much as possible
- Uses a softbox or similar if flash is needed
- No, or very little, post-processing effects
- Captures natural moments/used a photo-journalistic approach
And my DEAL-BREAKERS included:
- Unfocused, badly-lit, blurry photos
- Overuse of flash, or flash without a softbox or similar
- Overuse of post-processing effects—selective coloring, sepia tone, vintage editing
- Tilted photos (also known as Dutch angles)
- Too much grain
- Too many posed photos
In essence, I was looking for a photographer who knew their stuff, had a talent for capturing people, emotions, and scenes as they are, and didn’t depend on post-processing and Photoshop to cover up bad photography with pretty effects.
I also wanted someone who would be on the ball with capturing things as they happened, rather than relying on posing us to get the shots. Posed photos have their place, of course, but I don’t want to remember our entire wedding day as, “Oh, that’s when our photographer told us to stand here, that’s when he told us to raise our hands and wave, that’s when he told us to kiss.” No. I wanted to look back at our wedding photos and see the day unfold before me, exactly as it actually happened.
I started my research—where else?—online. Each photographer I’d find got a gut-reaction yes/no based on a quick glance at their portfolio. For the yeses I’d then check their packages: because good photography was so important to me, I was willing to spend a lot, but in keeping with our budget, it couldn’t be over $3k or so. (Why? Because that’s what I arbitrarily felt comfortable with.) I also wanted a photographer who would be with us for the whole day, or at least the vast majority of it, and who included that in their base package (none of the “pay $XX.XX extra for each additional hour” crap). I also didn’t want any packages that included a “leather-bound photo album worth $1000!” or any required extras because, well, we didn’t want a leather-bound photo album, so I didn’t want to pay for one (because even though it’s “included” in the package price, you know that that album is bumping up the price of the package at least a little bit).
Out of the ones whose portfolios I liked and who had packages that fit our needs, I was left with three photographers: Leeann Marie, Christina Montemurro, and Michael Williams. I began following each of their blogs to get a better idea of their work and would make my final pick from that when the time came.
Which vendor did you start with? Was it your most important one? How did you begin your search for your photographer?