It's that time of year! Lots of wedding proposals took place over Christmas and New Year's so couples are now on the hunt for a great venue and team of vendors for their special day. There are many websites and Pinterest boards that like to give advice to brides on what to look for when hiring their wedding photographer. But your decision can be really be based on one question that I wish more clients would ask but often do not.
Here's the question you want to ask.
Can you send me a link to a full gallery from a wedding?
That's all there is to it. One simple question that will tell you more about your wedding photographer than any other. At the end of the day you will want to know if they can perform from start to finish. Often wedding photographers are chosen based solely from their portfolio featured on their website or the photos shared on their blog. But let's look at the numbers.
Typical blog post = 30 photos
Typical amount of photos delivered for a wedding = 750 photos
Percentage of photos featured on the blog that were delivered to the clients from the wedding day = 4%
Typical wedding photographer website gallery = 50 photos
Typical amount of photos taken during the year by active working photographer = 50,000
Percentage of photos on their website versus photos taken during year = 0.1%
Yes you are seeing that correct. Just 1/10th of 1%. The photos on their website are really just a very tiny fraction of what the photographer is shooting throughout the year and a blog post is only featuring approximately 4% of the entire wedding.
Wouldn't it be important to see the other 96%?
Looking through an entire wedding gallery will also help you understand if the photographer can handle shooting photos both indoors and outdoors. Some photographers are very good at shooting with natural light, others that might have been studio trained are great with indoor controlled lighting. However a fantastic wedding photographer is someone that can handle any lighting scenario that is tossed at them. If you paid extra money for beautiful uplighting during your reception you want a photographer that can capture the fun of the party while also showing off the room ambient.
By looking through an entire wedding gallery you can also compare the photographers work to other photographers you are considering for the job. Not all weddings are necessarily created equal, some more elaborate than others and the photos might show that so be sure to not be swayed by the wedding decorations. In other words focus on the photos not the decor.
These days many professional wedding photographers use the cloud to deliver photos through innovative online galleries such as Pixieset (which is what I use), ShootProof, Zenfolio, SmugMug, and Instaproofs. By asking to see a full wedding gallery you can also get an idea of how those services look. While there are other ways of delivering files online such as Dropbox, the services mentioned above are especially designed for photographers to share photos with their clients and make the experience much more enjoyable.
In conclusion, while there are other important questions to ask a photographer before investing in them the most important one in my opinion is to see a full gallery from a wedding. Looking through their portfolio or blog is nice and might give you some ideas if their style is the kind you like. But choosing a photographer from photos based on less than 1/10th of 1% of the photos they shot during the year would be like judging a book by it's cover.