What I Have Learned Searching for a Wedding Photographer

I recently got engaged and have started the process of finding my wedding photographer. Something that has become very hard since I have decided to rule out the possibility of a friend shooting it, because let's face it, they need to be drinking. As a wedding photographer myself, I noticed some positives and negatives in other businesses first impressions. These are just things that have become my pet peeves while seeking a photographer, mostly website related.

I certainly don't want to step on any toes with this article, but being a wedding photographer who is now acting as a customer, I feel that I've seen an entirely new perspective on the industry. I try not to compare, but it is good to see what the market is doing and really what your customers like and don't.

1) Style Shoots: My eye is becoming very attuned to noticing these. I am not saying don't do it, just be mindful. This becomes apparent when you go to a photographer's page and their portfolio gallery is small and impressive, but then you visit their active blog and... well things just don't line up. Colors are different, lighting is sloppy, retouching is inconsistent... these things should all the be same across the board. When there is a lack of consistency, your client just doesn't know what to expect on their wedding day.

2) Pricing: After searching through tons of photographers and looking at their pricing and portfolios, I raised my rates. I have always felt I wasn't yet good enough to do a large increase; however, after exploring the market and browsing through several photographers images, I had no problem raising my rates. I am not saying follow the crowd, but if you're shooting rocking photos and your competition is charging $2000+ more... well, step up your pricing game. You will book more, I have.

3) Natural Light Shooter: This "phrase" scares me. As a photographer 99% of us would rather shoot with good natural light, that is almost a given. When sunlight looks good you cannot beat it. However, when I see this phrase I read, "Please don't put me in a situation where I have to flash!" If someone is an off camera light master, I promise they know how to handle the natural stuff too. Obviously I don't want someone direct flashing me all day long but I really don't need to know you are a natural light photographer, your images will reflect this.

4) Return / Follow Up Emails Promptly: I feel like this is a given, but it still blows me away how many last minute emails or lack of responses I have been getting. I am about to drop thousands of dollars on your services so please just show me you can return emails. I truly understand things get busy, but follow-up is a must if you are to gain my trust and confidence for our day. If you say you are going to follow up with an email do so within 24 hours. Every email should be actioned within that window. I also like to follow up before a scheduled meeting. Just a nice email saying "hey I am on my way", or "look forward to meeting you today at 5pm."

answeremails

 

5) Portfolio: As I viewed photographers I wanted to see their portfolio quickly. I can glance at images and figure out if this is a photographer I want to know more about. When your portfolio is only viewed at one image at a time it just takes too long. I'm not against slideshows, but there needs to be an option to see a large quantity of your work quickly. I want to be able to scroll through some images and get an idea of your style, look, and flow.

 

portfolio

6) Film: I love film. I shoot film. I shoot film at some weddings. The dynamic range is rocking! However, at least half of my wedding is going to be at night. This scares when looking through film shooters' portfolios and not seeing a single night photo. What?!? If you shoot film, make sure you show all lighting conditions so your couple sees your look across a full wedding. Heck, even as a digital shooter you should have some night photos in your portfolio.

7) Full Wedding Portfolio: There was a time when I was not the biggest fan of someone asking to see a full wedding. However, now I send one right away to show the clients how their wedding will be delivered online. Bam here it is, this is how I break it up, every image in color and b&w. It gives them an expectation of your final product and puts you on the same page. Just offer it up or send it in your inquiry email.

 

fullgallery

8) Hard Media: Maybe I am not changing with the times, but I really appreciate the idea of having the full wedding on hard media. What is the point of shooting with a D800 (36 mp) if you only delivery these "high res" images online... give me the full res! Just do it.

9) Recommendations: As a wedding photographer you have more insight on weddings than you think. I am currently working on a recommendations page to list the vendors I like / have worked with. Being able to give the couple advice grows the relationship before the wedding day and karma will treat you well. Just make sure they are reliable and notify those vendors that you are listing them.

10) Music: I would really consider not having music playing on your website. I tend to load several web pages at a time and it is hard to find what tab is making the unwanted noise.

11) Flash Website: My fiance only has an ipad, she could not view anything on flash sites. They were cut right away.

flash_ipad

 

I do not believe that I know it all, these suggestions just popped out at me and my fiance while I was searching. Feel free to share any other suggestions in the comments. We should always be refining our business to our customer's needs and wants.

 

 

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45 Comments

Lee Morris's picture

This is a really great post

Alex Grace's picture

Agreed!

Steve's picture

common sense

Jaron Schneider's picture

Apparently not so common though.

Steve's picture

that's actually kinda sad.

kevinflorian's picture

Common sense is like deodorant...The people who need it most never use it.

corrado amenta's picture

HA! love that line

Yves Chan's picture

HAHAHA you ass! My McD bacon & egg almost went thru my nose!!! Made my day! hahahahaha

Gary Norbraten's picture

I had considered writing an article like this after getting married last year. A really fantastic read and a lot of stuff I agree with completely.

Information should be easy to find (pricing and portfolio) and compatible across devices.

And you MUST MUST MUST respond to all e-mails promptly. Within the day is great, but within the hour is better. If photography is your only job there's no excuse.

JonathonWatkins's picture

Mmmm, within the day sure. However I try and check email three times a day, or I can't concentrate on getting any focused work done, e.g editing. If you aim for within the hour you're going to be chasing your tail when it gets busy.

Gary Norbraten's picture

3 times a day is wonderful.
When I'm home retouching photos and I heard my inbox "ding", I stop what I'm doing and go reply. Then I get back to work.

Andy Austin's picture

Having my phone hooked to my email is the best because I can respond crazy fast. I always figure that in the time they are waiting for me to respond they could easily find someone else to fulfill their needs.

But also having a mac now is nice because the little pop up tab in the corner. If it's not something important I just ignore it. But if it's from a client then I can always respond.

Tim's picture

Whatever works for you; the statistics from my GMail account show that if I don't respond within about 4mins, I'm probably not going to. When I approached a wedding photographer last week, I was still on tenterhooks for the couple of hours it took to get a response. Not unreasonable, in the grand scheme of things, as I appreciated he might be actually working, but still...

Danny Greer's picture

Good suggestions! Adding "recommendations "for vendors and venues not only shows you're experienced but it's also great for local SEO.

Nicholas gonzalez's picture

Wonderful post. Congratulations on an awesome wedding.

Víctor Aláez's picture

great article. i took my notes. congrats!

Charlotte Fiorito's picture

Jerrit thank you for this, very informative. May I ask who you do your galleries with?

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

No problem. http://codecanyon.net/item/photomosaic-for-wordpress/243422 I kept trying to make something but ended up just buying the wordpress plugin.

Michael Porco's picture

bam - that is the $hit!

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

I gladly gave them my $15 dollars.

Jorje Castillo's picture

great read dude. it's always awesome to have the "shoe on the other foot" and really do some external self scrutinizing.

Richard Johnson's picture

Flash! a-ah Savior of the Universe!

Laura Vanderwel's picture

question for you about your "hard media" comment- I agree about giving out hard media, but do you ever find that your clients don't know what to do with full-res files? I've had it often that my clients are like... "I can't upload the photos to ____ to print them" etc.... (in which case I always remind them that I don't recommend ____ to print their photos, but what can you do?).

PS - all great points :D. I especially like the "natural light photographer" part, I thought the exact same thing when searching for a wedding photographer.

Rob Barnes's picture

I believe what they mean is that you give the full rez jpegs, not ones resized for download on a website. Its a lot easier to send them a drive of a couple gigs of photos rather than have them download it. Thats my take on it and I might be off. Last wedding in Italy I shot I have 200gb of photos(2 days) and since they are also photographers, we are just doing a swap of drives. There is no other way to deliver that much product.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

I deliver an online gallery first. They can download these images and order prints right from the gallery, it is not full res. I agree that some customers have no clue what to do with it. However I have also heard of customers complaining about file size, this is only 3mb why? I could explain or just say the large image is on the flash drive. If you want to cover a billboard you can! haha It also creates another backup for them.

Laura Vanderwel's picture

Perfect answer, thanks! I don't do a lot of weddings and I'm not sure I plan to, so I don't have an online sharing gallery or anything set up. For now I just give them medium sized files on a flash drive :D.

Jon Yoder's picture

I love perspectives like this. Being able to see things from a differing perspective is crucial to finding out what needs to change. One thing I'd love to see is more posts like this, but from an average client's perspective.

BBphoto's picture

Excellent post, though you would think most of the photographers out there would know this stuff . . . . . .it's sad that a lot of them don't.

Matt's picture

Now you've got me worried! Do I have reason to be?! http://www.matt-goldsmith.co.uk/

Trent Jones's picture

I liked yours but I believe your about page can use some tweaking, especially the final paragraph (looks like gibberish on my computer). I also think the about page can be more about what to expect from working with you. Oh and maybe add rates, perhaps? Hope this helps!

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Don't worry that your site could be wrong, just be mindful of how a client views things or how they would go about researching your work and booking you. These ideas didn't cause me to reinvent my website but to tweak some pages here and there.

Tim's picture

Cutting straight to the chase: your "wedding" page screams "b&w with selective colour" to the extent that you look like a one-trick pony.

Harsh perhaps, but just a first impression - and that's me, very much the aware-enthusiastic-amateur photographer but also I'm calling on a pro-photographer's services in about 3 weeks' time so I've just done the check-their-website dance...

Rad's picture

I run a web design studio http://unostella.com/ and must say Flash used to be a great technology when I started 10 years ago. But since it wasn't open source, Steve Jobs decided to kill it. I used to create 100% flash sites and believe me, they were far more advanced than what you see on Internet nowadays. But things changed... Flash died and now I wouldn't use it AT ALL, it's a thing of a past. Luckily there is more and more JavaScript libraries to make sites as cool as they used to be.

Andy Austin's picture

I think another thing that really killed flash was how much people are on mobile browsers these days. Even when android ran flash it never quite looked right on my phone. That's something that really has exploded in the last 10 years.

Chris Alleyne-Chin's picture

Good article. I agree!

Nicholas gonzalez's picture

As a die hard fan, I'd love to make a proposal on what I feel is shaping up to be an amazing fstoppers exclusive trilogy: this post, by Jerrit, should be part 1 of a "From photographer to photographer" series. The next follow up can be who he chose and why and what it taught him as a client/photographer. The third and final installment can be by the chosen photographer! After the wedding we can learn his/her approach to the wedding and what it took to earn Jerrit's and the bride's trust. I think it will bring incredible insight and inspiration.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Well you have a trilogy now:

1) The lying Ex: http://bit.ly/17Qwzoa

2) The new love: http://bit.ly/19IiuIW

3) And then this article about our search!

I tend to write about my love life a lot...

Abdulaziz Lamlum's picture

Brilliant, to the point, and now this helps me to start building the website on what the customer wants to see not what I think is appealing.

Adagio's picture

great suggestions, thanks!

Seyi Body Lawson's picture

Really nice observations.....especially coming from a photographer. I guess a lot pf pros will have to make changes.

Marvin Jay Sheppard's picture

Awesome post! I like how you broke it down. Many pro photographers may have their skills down packed, but the business aspect may suck. This is definitely food for thought!

Martin's picture

Brilliant post, definitely one to share with my followers, the majority of the wedding photographers that hire lenses through us will be interested in this, thanks.

Tim's picture

Oh, so very true. It's good to see it from the clients' side for once.

We had intended to get a friend to shoot our wedding, as his style (gig/social event) matched our needs quite well - it's a very low-key affair at home in our garden. However, when he had to pull out for other reasons, I was on looking for a photographer; choices were either

1) a professional from the next town along the road whose attitude is to set himself up as "the local photographer" complete with van and services, whose website is tailored to what people might want, and who came around to shoot updated brochure photos for a rental property we were living in at the time so I knew him well enough after a morning plying with coffee, or

2) a local chap down in the village, whose website starts with a quote "...the camera did not take it, I did" and proceeds on to photos he's taken of African warriors.

Nothing against African warriors - but we are neither, so there's a mismatch of target audience on the homepage and, critically, we *really* don't appreciate the passive-aggressive recitation of a meme.

No prizes for guessing who's hopefully coming in ~3 weeks' time...

Yonex Sterno's picture

Great sharing. very informative. For sure, lots of wedding photographers like you have learned from such. - http://kirraleeblog.com/

Yang W.'s picture

we operate a wedding video company here in Toronto and I am express how important it is to have a great looking website. although this is not for everyone, but if you can, I would suggest you do your own web developement and seo, just so that you know the inner details of your business. If you can't start slow or hire a professional.

Our new website is at https://SDEWeddings.com I believe we updated to our current template in 2017 and we have a intro video on our landing page. since we refreshed our look, we noticed about 20 to 30% increase in sales as compared to previous years.

Your website literally is your online store so take care of it. Answer email on time is like having a tentative sales agent.