Choosing the Perfect Photographer for your Big Day!

Choosing the perfect photographer for your big day is very important. You want to make sure you choose someone that fits with your personal style and will give you the photos you envision.  But how do you choose the right photographer? I thought no better way to find out then to ask a photographer! Here is my Q & A session with the lovely Lake Tahoe photographer, Courtney Aaron!

choosing the perfect photographer

Q: What do you think makes a good client/photographer match?

A: Having similar personal interests, style and sense of humor. Ideally, you should hire a photographer that you would want to hang out with personally. Feeling comfortable around them will yield the most natural looking pictures. Read their blog. Can you relate to them?  The majority of your wedding day will be shared with the photographer close by so you want to make sure it's someone you like as a person. Talk to them on the phone, meet in person, a few encounters will give you a good idea of what they are like. I treat my clients like friends the moment they first contact me. Whether they book with me or not, I want them to feel important. Use your instincts and if you're not feeling the photographer is right for you, move on. Likewise, if I know a couple may be a better match for a colleague of mine, I'm happy to put them in contact. Having a strong, natural connection should be a mutual feeling. That goes for all of your other vendors as well!

Q: Many photographers recommend an engagement session for their clients to get to know them before the big day.  What are your thoughts on this?

A: It's a great idea. Engagement sessions are a win-win for both parties. Odds are that wedding day is the first time a couple will be in front a professional photographer and engagement sessions are a great way to practice. It's not everyday you have your own personal paparazzi following you around! It's a more laid back session that should involve lots of chatting and getting to know one another. By the time wedding day comes, the photographer arrives and is just another familiar face and you're more comfortable in front of the camera! If you have a long engagement, it's also a good way to test the waters before committing to booking. Plus, it's a great excuse to have date night! After the session, so many of my couples make plans to have a night out. You look great, you're feeling fantastic and you just spent over an hour kissing and loving each's the beginning of a great night!

Many couples are curious as to why they would need engagement pictures in the first place. On a personal note, when I got engaged I wondered the same thing, even as a photographer. We aren't the type that has a gazillion images of ourselves throughout our house and perhaps, it's because we're pretty private people. I'm so thankful now that my photographer friends convinced us to do a session because every time I look at the series of prints we have hanging, I'm reminded of that exciting part of our life when we were planning a wedding and anxious to be husband and wife. We all look at photographs to remember moments in our lives and  go right back to what we felt at that moment. I know what it feels like to have my husband's arms wrapped around me but the photographs reveal his warm smile I can't see when I'm snug in his arms. I will forever treasure those photographs. Naturally, I'm now a huge supporter of portrait sessions with your honey.

Q: What are some good questions that clients should ask their photographers?

A: The most popular questions I get asked are having to do with contracts, time it takes to deliver images and rights to images. Every photographer is different in their policies and practices, since everyone runs their business differently. Think of what your expectations are and address them with those you meet with. I provide clients a questionnaire that gives me insight into their plans for their wedding. This way, I have a good idea of their personalities and style. How do you handle running behind schedule? A stressful photographer isn't one I would want at my wedding. Take a good look at their website and shooting style. If you having an indoor wedding in the winter and all you see on their website are outdoor summer weddings, you will certainly want to ask to see something similar to your plans. Similarly, ask to see an entire wedding gallery so that you can see a wedding start to finish. What's on our website may be just a few favorite shots from select weddings. It's all about managing expectations and if you have a long list of them, make sure to speak up right from the beginning.

Q: What important things should a client look for in a contract with a photographer?

A: A good contract will state the payment schedule, agreed photography package, copyrights, cancellation, and liabilities, Couples should read the contract thoroughly and understand each and every part. Although in my experience it's been a rare occasion, wedding plans can change and its important that couples understand the importance of what they are signing. It is industry standard to have a retainer/deposit to hold your wedding date and is typically non-refundable since a photographer is reserving that date just for that wedding and turning away many other wedding inquiries for that date. A good contract will be detailed enough to leave little to the imagination, so reading it thoroughly can save a lot of headache later.

Q: Anything else you feel is important to add?

A: It's extremely important to allow enough time for the photographs you desire. The more time, the more variety you'll get and your photographer can really go above an beyond by not being rushed for time. What I can do in 45 minute portrait session varies greatly from 10 minutes. Work with your photographer to make sure that you'll have plenty of time for each event throughout the day. I always provide timelines to my clients to help with efficiency and planning. If you're stressed, your pictures will reflect that, so allow extra time getting ready, traveling and all the little in-between's that end up eating up valuable time. If your dress has 100 buttons to button, odds are it won't take five minutes to get dressed. If you have 10 bridesmaids, you'll need more than one makeup and hairstylist. Give yourself time to enjoy your day and not rush through it. Your photographs will benefit greatly! Also, be a good communicator when telling your family and wedding party where they need to be and when. When people are missing during a portrait, that portrait usually has to be made up later, taking time away from something else. A photographer with a great deal of experience can not only take great pictures, they can offer valuable planning tips since we see it all! With all the right planning and team of vendors, your wedding can be a smooth and stress-free experience... as it should be since it's one of the happiest, most exciting days of your life!

Courtney in action - Photo courtesy of Adrienne Jean Photography