Planning your Destination Wedding? Picking the right photographer might be your must difficult task!
10 Steps to Choose Your Destination Wedding Photographer
So you just decided to get married abroad on your dream location – probably even in Italy – and now you need some advice to plan your big day? In this article I am going to list 10 useful tips which are going to help you to pick the ideal photographer.
Planning a Destination Wedding comes with many challenges especially because of the distance. Picking venues and service providers through e-mails and phone calls without actually meeting them in person can be very risky in certain countries. Given that a professional photographer is one of the most important element of your day, choosing the right person is the key for the success of your Dream Day! So here is my guidance which will help you to minimize the potential issues:
1. Searching on the Web
You might start your search on the internet. Here are some sites to begin with:
- Google: look for keywords which are containing your desired location. For example, you can look for “florence wedding photographer” if you plan your wedding in Italy, and from there you can refine your search. Given that there are many cities called “Florence” in the States, you might want to search for “florence italy wedding photographers” or “tuscany wedding photographers”. In case you have a desired style or a location you can try to look for terms such as “romantic wedding photographer in florence italy” or “destination wedding photographer florence” or “creative wedding photographer italy”.
- Google images: using the same keywords gives you the possibility to look for images directly instead of domain results if you click on the Images section on the top of the search page. In this way you can save some time clicking only on the images you like which are going to direct you to the photographer’s website directly.
- WeddingWire: WeddingWire is a directory mainly used in the US but it is the biggest one which is helping you to find service providers all around the globe too. Just pick the desired country, city and the service you need and start browsing. Surprisingly you will find tons of photographers in Italy and other countries too.
- Yelp: Yelp is another good source to look for location based service providers. It allows you to choose a city, to see details and reviews.
2. Packages and Prices
After shortlisting 5-10 photographers you like, the next step is to ask for their packages and prices. I recommend to list as many details of your Wedding as you can in your request, such as date, location, duration, desired elements and the number of guests.
Now here is my most controversial advice: I recommend you not to over-analyze the packages and prices and please do not choose your wedding photographer based on their prices!
Obviously I understand you might have some limits in your budget but in general our mindset is too much impacted by the consumer focused society. Your wedding photographer is not a ‘merchandise’ to pick based on its ‘features’ but a real person with a creative mind. Just like you choose your future spouse based on your feelings and not based on ‘numbers’ or ‘specifications’, you should choose your wedding photographer with your mind – but your heart too!
3. Personality of the Photographer
Your wedding photographer is going to be the person you spend the most time with on your wedding day. Period. So a good chemistry between you and them is mandatory! They will be there at your getting ready where even your future spouse can’t enter. They will follow you walking down the aisle and they will be in an arms distance during the ceremony, closer than your parents or siblings! They will follow you from the moment you open your eyes till the end of the day, when you cry, when you laugh and even when you are tired or stressed. You don’t want to spend all these moments with someone you don’t like!
To avoid such situation, I recommend to set up a Skype video call with at least 3 photographers, just to feel the chemistry. And to check their English, obviously 🙂
4. Style and quality
There are many different styles in Wedding Photography. Some of them are photo-journalistic, others are traditional, fine art, moody and dark or bright and airy. It is up to you to decide which one is your favorite style! To have a clear idea of your preferred style can help you a lot in the selection phase.
Please also remember that quality is more important than quantity. You might get 15 pictures of you throwing the bouquet but the photographer can still miss the crucial moment of this action. A good photographer is good with timing and will deliver you only the best moments in the highest quality! As the famous street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson said, a photographer should look for the decisive moment. The decisive moment is a concept which refers to capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself.
You might also check if the photographer is post processing (editing, retouching) the images or just doing a so called shoot&burn service (shooting the images and “burning” them on a CD without any editing). Based on my opinion a good photographer will never deliver you any unedited (RAW) picture! So try to avoid those photographers who offer you “all the images plus 100 edited photos” or something similar. I understand you would like to get all the images but please trust your photographer! Ideally they do this service since years so they know what to include in your portfolio so you won’t miss anything important relying on them.
5. Portfolio check
You find a fantastic website with many breathtaking pictures. You are convinced that it’s a great photographer. Don’t fall for this immediately! The best thing to do is to ask for a full portfolio where you can check a complete wedding material with all the delivered images. Every photographer might get lucky to capture two or three good pictures per wedding, but what you are looking for is consistency through a whole album / day.
In case you get to see a full album, check it from different aspects:
- Is every important moment captured, such as pulling the ring, first look, first kiss, mom’s crying, etc?
- Are the colors consistent throughout the whole album or you see different styles in different situations?
- Is the photographer doing a good job in every circumstances, such as in dark places, with many people, under the sun, etc?
Answering ‘YES’ to all of these questions you can be sure that the photographer is capable to shoot a wedding!
A wedding photographer must have at least two of everything. Two camera bodies (the most expensive part), several lenses, at least two flashes, spare batteries, several memory cards, etc. You never know when a tool will break down and while doing a portrait photography you can go back tomorrow or get back your deposit, it is not an option at a wedding. A professional photographer need to have a back up equipment in case something goes wrong because certain moments you can’t repeat! You can’t just “go back tomorrow” if the camera of the photographer breaks during the ceremony. It’s an incredible responsibility which should not be under valued. (For the same reasons I don’t recommend to ask a hobby photographer friend or relative to shoot your wedding because they might not have the necessary back up gear.)
A wedding photographer might be very talented and creative but not professional enough to successfully run a business. Non-professional behavior might lead to communication issues, legal problems, etc.
Here are few tips which you can check to understand how competent your photographer is:
- How fast they respond to messages?
- Do you see a VAT or a business registration number on their website?
- Does the website have a clean structure?
- Do you see a “cookies consent” message popping up? (Given that it is obligatory by law it is a very good indicator!)
- Do they use a gmail or hotmail e-mail address or any other free provider or do they use their own domain’s e-mail?
- Do they have a Facebook page, an Instagram account or any other social media presence?
8. Social Proof and Testimonials
This is an easy one, but I recommend to extensively check on your photographer on different sites, looking for reviews. You can find recommendations on Facebook, tagged photos on Instagram, reviews on WeddingWire, Google My Business page, Yelp or other sites. The reviews of the past clients gives you a feeling about the quality of service the photographer provides.
9. Prepare the Big Day Together
You might think that it is the role of a wedding planner, but don’t forget that you are going to hire a professional wedding photographer. An experienced professional can give you valuable tips about the logistics of your days, simply because we have seen many. A photographer who shot more than ten or hundred weddings can give you handy tips about when to do the group pictures, how to organize the first look, when and where the lights are the best, at what time the sunset is, how much time does it take to do creative pictures, etc etc.
In case you travel abroad, to have a capable local photographer is even more important. Every country has its unique features and only a local person can guide you through the day without having many issues. Here are some situations a local expert can come handy:
- Translation between you and the other service providers: not every waitress, driver or make up artist speaks English. Given that your photographer will be around you all day long, language skills can help you a lot
- Every country has its own regulations. A local photographer will tell you where it is allowed to take pictures and where not (churches, public places, indoor places, etc.)
- Cultural differences are also important as you have to respect the local habits or religions
- A local photographer will know the order of the menu, when there is enough time between courses or when not to take pictures
Asking for all these details will give you an insight about the preparedness of the photographer.
Signing a contract is also an important element of an agreement. Please never hire anyone to shoot your wedding without a signed contract and never pay any deposit before having the signed version.
The main elements of a Wedding Contract are the following:
- Contracting parties
- Location, date and the type of service
- Price, coverage, provided services and payment deadlines
- Cancellation policy
- Force Majeure
- Preliminary schedule of the event
- Data processing agreement
In case your photographer can’t provide a proper contract please look for another one. You don’t want to get into legal problems in another country on the most important day of your life! Bridezilla is not charming so better not to go mad 🙂
Final Tip: Go with the Flow
Following all the steps above you can’t go wrong choosing your ideal photographer. However life is not always predictable and you can face with many unexpected circumstances which may have an effect on your plans. Especially in Italy 🙂 So it is also important to be able to let things go, to be flexible and to have the capacity to be in the moment no matter what! During the years shooting weddings I have seen so many things going wrong but with the right attitude you can enjoy a rainfall, you can laugh on a broken dress, you can legally buy a new pair of shoes if you forgot to bring the original ones and you can happily cry off your make up if the ceremony is too emotional. Just be present and enjoy it all!
But again, you need to have the right photographer to capture all of these moments! These feelings are the essence of your celebration and you want to remember them the rest of your life!