Hey Friends, Happy Saturday!
Wanted to chat today about a topic that constantly comes up with folks planning a wedding from afar. This is most of our weddings here in Hawaii. Something I continue to hear from couples is how daunting it is to select vendors for their big day. Understandably so, each of these people will help shape what your event looks like, what the experience is like and the truth is, we are ALL humans who run our businesses differently! When it comes to your wedding photographer, there are lots of questions you SHOULD be asking, but since for most of you this is your first wedding, you probably have no idea what those questions could even be. ( and hey! Maybe it's your second or third... and that's cool too! This is a judgement free zone and I definitely know sometimes it takes a couple toads to find your prince. ;) The purpose of this list is to help give you insider info so that you can make THE BEST choice for your wedding photography crew.
OPEN and HONEST COMMUNICATION is the key to any relationship, which is why it's so important you're on the same page with the people you are hiring to curate your big day!
Your Wedding Photography is incredibly important! When your day is all said and done, your photo and video is the one beautiful piece you have left to relive your incredible day. But your wedding photography is so much more than a pretty picture, we creatives have a big responsibility when it comes to your day and it's important to make sure you hire a crew capable of handling such an incredible task.
So that you have THESE FEELS about your Wedding Photography,
Rather than THESE FEELS
So here it is, THE LIST.. to help you find you find and invest in the right artist - the one who makes your core scream "F*CK Yes! This is the one." and the one who helps you to facilitate the most amazing day possible. Buckle up!
1. "How much wedding photography experience do you have?"
How many years have you been photographing weddings and how many weddings have you captured? Beautiful photos mean nothing if the crew doesn't have the experience to back it up. Capturing photos during a photo session is one thing, but being able to adapt quickly, to lighting shifts and all the action, so as not to miss a moment are another! This comes with experience. There is an unlimited possibility of wild unknowns that can arise on Wedding Day and it's so important you have an experienced crew capable of navigating any situation that is thrown at them... A malfunctioning camera, a blown memory card, a guest who stands and crosses the aisle during the first kiss(I've had it happen!), wild weather, oblivious guests who carry shopping bags into the ceremony site and hang them off their seat or park strollers that will end up in all of your ceremony shots(an inexperienced photographer could leave these things and you certainly wouldn't see them prior to.. yet they'd be in ALLLLL of you ceremony images.), details that have gotten mixed around or need help, a groomsmen who hates getting his photo taken, hair and makeup running late - which has now delayed your timeline and is jeopardizing your formal photos (an inexperienced photographer may not remember what to shoot or how to make up time or prioritize... or perhaps the lighting during your ceremony is going from bright to cloudy as the sun passes through the clouds... Now half of their images are dark and they've missed the kiss. What about your grandpa who also happens to be your favorite human on the planet, but your wedding photographers didn't capture any photos of him...
You can't replace experience with anything but experience...
It's so important that the professionals you hire, you know the ones you've made a sizable investment for, have the experience to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Just because a photographer has gorgeous images on their website does not mean they can successfully navigate a wedding day and all of the challenges thrown at them. Also, just because a company is new, doesn't mean they DON'T have experience...They may have worked with another business previously gaining experience or spent years second shooting. It's always best to ask and have an honest and open conversation with your wedding photographer. Now that's not to say you shouldn't hire the new guy who's artistry you love, just so long as your expectations are in line with reality and you're able to have an open and honest conversation with them. If they were upfront with you about their lack of experience and you still hired them, at the end of the day just be willing to accept responsibility if something goes awry. Ideally you'll find an artist that YOU LOVE who also has the experience to back it up! It's absolutely WORTH THE INVESTMENT.
2."Can I see a whole gallery?"
Anyone can capture a beautiful photo, but what does an entire event look like? Is the gallery consistent? Are all of the images quality? Are the images random or do they tell a story? When an event happens are you getting wides, close ups and story telling elements? What's important to you? Do you see those types of images captured? Your photographer should gladly be willing to share either a full event or an extended sample of an event so you can get a full idea of the type of magic they create.
Additionally you'll get a sense of how the WHOLE event is captured... Do they use lighting during reception? What sort of techniques? Are the night-time images nicely lit or hot and flat do they not use any lighting and rely on available light to leave them soft focus and extra grainy? This requires a different skill set when shooting and again EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER IS DIFFERENT... (and yet another reason EXPERIENCE is important... so they can be ready to capture your Reception imagery regardless of lighting or venue.)
3. "How many images can I expect?"
This varies from photographer to photographer... I'm totally crazy and I really love to shoot.. there's always a story to capture... so I am constantly observing and scanning the area for those unique story-telling elements. The cool thing about your wedding photography is when a special moment is happening on your big day it's not just impacting the two of you but the other amazing humans in attendance - so many moments that are happening, that you don't even realize until you get to relive them through your wedding gallery! It's so awesome... this is why I shoot so much. While we guarantee 100 images an hour our galleries are usually quite a bit larger than that... Depending on the details and the way the timeline is constructed, how many people are at the wedding and events we've had galleries even double our minimum!! Standard is around 500 images for a 10 hour wedding.
4. "How long before I can see a sneak peek of my images?" and "How long does the entire gallery take?"
You can expect an artist to take a bit longer with your images... I for one like to craft the artistry of your date from start to finish, therefore I do all of my own editing in-house. Many outsource this part, but I feel like to truly honor your artistry and tell your story the way that feels right for me, I like to have final control over crafting each image. Due to our gorgeous and quite LARGE galleries and the fact that I edit everything in-house our FULL galleries take 8-10 weeks for completion (on the longest end.) BUT, we offer a beautiful and large sneak peek a few days after your wedding. Our sneak peeks are comprised of your gorgeous portraits, awesome moments, and some beautiful shots from throughout your day. These images can be used for your Thank You cards and as a way you can quickly share your gorgeous images following your wedding. All the time, we get awesome humans who come to Hawaii a few weeks after their wedding to celebrate their honeymoons, do an adventure wedding photo session with us and end up receiving our photos before they ever see a single wedding photo. All photographers run their businesses differently, so it's great to be in full communication before booking to understand when you can expect to see some images. I know photographers who take a month to complete weddings and photographers who take 6 MONTHS... Also, many don't give a sneak peek and if they do, its only an image or two... so it's great to know what you can expect.
5. "Do I get Print Rights?"
The Digital Files are by far the BEST way to receive your imagery. This is because once you have those digital files, you're able to print and reproduce them to your heart's desire. Where as, if you purchase a print, and that print gets damaged, you must then purchase another print.. and if down the road that print is lost or damaged, you're potentially screwed. BUT, just because you purchase a Digital Package doesn't mean that photographer is also going to give you rights to print... MAKE SURE if you're buying a digital package you know what you're truly getting. Without the print rights you can never print them outside of your photographer and you will be at the mercy of what that photographer forever charges for prints.
6. Are there any additional or hidden fees?
This goes with ANY vendor you hire ... But I've heard some interesting things in the wedding photography world. I once read about a wedding photographer who charges a fee for the couple's ALBUM COVER... they were also not upfront about this (it was buried in the contract) and when the couple went to order their album, they were hit with a fee for their cover.. NO cover was included and you can't order an album without the cover. (This couple went on to leave a negative review for the photographer, which went viral... the photographer sued for defamation and won over a million dollars... TRUE STORY!!!!! Crazy, right?! Open and Honest Communication could have caused everyone a heap of stress and worry.) Others charge for travel, while others have clauses that kick in if something runs over (even by a few minutes) they could invoice you for an additional hour. OR referencing back to #5 on this list, some photographers have a "PRINT RIGHT" fee , which could cost you thousands of dollars if you're not aware. So doing some homework up front and having OPEN and HONEST communication will help you in the long run, so that everyone is on the same page and you know what you're getting into beforehand.
(For my client's reading this, we have no additional or hidden fees - so no need to worry. While we have additional goodies you can purchase down the road, there's nothing obligatory and YES, you get your Print Rights.)
7. "What is your policy if the day run's behind?"
Your wedding day can get delayed for a number reasons, this is one reason (Referencing back to #1) hiring an EXPERIENCED photographer is important however, it's also important to know what your photographer's policy is if the day falls behind. What if things are delayed (Dad's Speech runs 30 minutes over...baahaha, not even joking IT HAPPENS) and now, it's time for your crew to leave and it's just before your Father-Daughter dance, which also happens to be one of the most important moments to you of the day... Will your team stop at the exact moment their contract ends? Will they charge you for an additional hour because they had to stay 10 or 15 minutes over?? Do they charge 3x their price for last-minute added time?
In Hawaii, vendors tend to be pretty chill and flexible, but that's not always the case, and it's not the case everywhere and with everyone so always good to have that conversation and get on the same page.
8. "How do I get my Images... and how long do you keep them on file?"
In 2020 most packages include your digital images, however, how you get these images can vary. As technology progresses so does the way we handle our media... We've gone from tapes, to CD's, to USB's... These days newer computers are being built without USB ports as they've moved into 3.0 Thunderbolt! This is why we deliver all of our images in high quality, gorgeous online galleries.. You just never know what might happen to your CD or USB... additionally some photographers will purge images after delivering the finished product to save space. So if you lose your USB you could end up SOL...
A TRUE STORY: One of my best friends was married in Hawaii nearly 10 years ago... At the time I was living on the mainland. Hawaiians will often have a very small, super intimate ceremony with only their closest family, followed by a much larger Reception. I was the one friend she had at her wedding, along with her close family members. She wanted me to enjoy the ceremony so she hired a photographer and I was just to be a guest(what?! that's like unheard of and also the last wedding I've been a guest at in almost 10 years 😂) I brought my camera and snapped a few shots, being mindful to mostly enjoy and leave the photography up to those she had hired for the event. Fast forward 6 months after their wedding - They moved homes and during the move, LOST the CD with their images. She called up her photographer (ONLY 6 MONTHS LATER) and the photographer NO LONGER HAD THEIR PHOTOS... ALL of their wedding photos GONE FOREVER! Additionally her photographers never captured a photo of her Grandpa (who passed away shortly after the wedding.) Even after I approached them at one point and pointed him out as one of her favorite humans. The only photos she has to this day are the few I captured while I was there!!!
Because technology is changing so fast many photographers today will upload and deliver images via an online gallery. This method, in my opinion, is THE best! You have access to all of your images, you can download and print as you'd like, you can share your images with friends and family around the world... it's a great solution as long as the photographer is investing in one of the better options!
Now, if a photographer is delivering your images via an online gallery make sure you understand any policies regarding that system. Some photographers will only publish your images for a certain amount of time. This can vary from a month, to a few months, or longer. Some photographers will also charge a republishing fee if you need your images again once the gallery has expired.
For us, we guarantee a year but never take galleries down and don't plan to. This would only happen if we were to move gallery systems. We also have a MEGA huge back up system so we never delete images to create space. We've had clients contact us 6 years later and have had their images safe and sound for them.
9. "Is your equipment professional-grade and does it allow for back ups as you shoot?"
Most professional equipment allows the photographer to shoot simultaneously to two memory cards at once. This is crucial if there ever were to be a memory card malfunction (which happens.) It could mean the difference of saving your wedding imagery OR losing it. Most contracts cover the photographer for various data loss scenarios, including technology malfunctions - however, if the photographer is using professional grade equipment with dual-writing capabilities, it's a huge fail safe just in case.
Well, that's all for now fam!
Ask these questions and you're sure to help align your expectations with reality and make sure you're on the same page! My biggest piece of advice to you is to always hire the crew that resonates MOST with you!!! We are all unique humans with different gifts, you can give 100 photographers a camera and they will all SEE your day differently! So find those humans you resonate and vibe
and their energy, have open and honest communication, LISTEN TO YOUR GUT (is it screaming "Fuck yes! This the one!"? and you'll have an amazing wedding experience.
Happy Wedding Planning!
Love and Light,