Getting engaged to your photographer

Every year, especially around what we call “engagement season,” a magazine publishes an article with the “Top Ten” things you need to do now that you’re engaged. These advocates are generally leading you down the right path. They typically change with the times, but for some reason they always leave out the importance of photographers. Finding a venue is a top tier plan of advice. Followed by catering and so on... What about the photographer? What is it that is preventing you from reaching out? It can be a daunting task. I understand first hand that this market is saturated heavily. Everyone is a “photographer” these days. But if you look between the lines you will see who is passionate about the art of photography and who is just putting in a couple hours of snapshots and calling it a photograph.

Photographs aren’t just snapped off, they are created. They tell a story about the subject. Properly curated and composed to evoke emotions that immediately bring you back to the day. A great Landscape image takes hours to compose (sometimes we get lucky), with the idea, the viewer will be frozen in thoughts and questions. That alone sounds expensive, but remember that you are paying for a service. Wedding photography is serious business, and no matter how big or small your budget is, every wedding can and should look beautiful.

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Toward the end of August this past year I was approached by an old friend from my childhood that I haven’t heard from in a while. He complimented my work and immediately asked if I would be interested in shooting his wedding. It’s always a tough decision to photograph a friends’ wedding when it’s also your business. But, without hesitation, I agreed. I won’t go into the economics here, but this was a balance of friendship and business. It was stressful getting engagement photos taken and then processed in time for invitations was stressful. However, it was completely worth it. With just over three months before the wedding day there wasn’t much room for error, and we had to get the invitations out promptly!

As a photographer, it’s important to know who your clients are. We are the producer of your story. Documenting the most important day of the rest of your life. One of the most important first dates you will have with your photographer is the engagement session. The first contact is more like “swiping right” and hoping for a mutual match. Which brings me to the first most important part before the wedding.

Find a photographer that matches with you and your Fiancé, both in photographic style and personality

The first couple of weeks after your engagement should be relaxed. Enjoy the time with your friends and family. Unless those circumstances don’t permit that leisure. A lot of people rush into planning which takes away from the moment. Once the date is set start thinking about a photographer. If possible, locking down the right photographer well before the wedding day (8–11 months) is a huge relief on both the photographer and the couple. It grants us the privilege to get to know you and understand the plans you have for the big day. It’s the simple details that matter the most and play a big factor on your wedding day. Set up an engagement session with the same photographer who will shoot your wedding. 

Engagement sessions allow you (the couple) to get used to the shooting styles and how we interact. It is the foundation of trust between both photographer and client. However, every photographer is different; I tend to go for the most natural movement, while also incorporating editorial (commercial) styled direction/posing to fine tune the image in a style that reflects who I am as an artist. This also gives you the opportunity to preview what to expect. More importantly, the process becomes more efficient. I understand some photographers don’t incorporate the engagement session into your initial wedding package. It’s is just a business model. Don’t sweat it, but definitely sign up for it!

You will begin to understand lighting techniques used to create beautiful images. From a photographers’ perspective, engagement sessions allow us to start telling your story months before the wedding. We begin to learn what makes you uncomfortable, if anything at all. It’s important to remember that photography is an art, and to understand how each individual creates that art will help you as a couple to be more comfortable with the techniques.

NYC engagement session  

NYC engagement session  

Keep your photographer up to date. No one likes being left in the dark

Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking, which can sometimes be stressful. With that comes changes and adjustments. The worst feeling for a photographer is getting caught blind sided by changes. Now I’m not saying that you should let your photographers know the moment “Aunt Jill” decides to complain about the menu. But small things, such as your timeline that may effect the entire wedding day including your portraits. Maybe you’ve thought about doing a “first look”, and your wedding planner attempts to talk you out of it. A planner should never try to talk you out of what you have your heart set on. Maybe you’ve planned your wedding at dusk, that will play a huge factor on your bridal/formal session. Unless of course you’ve planned this for another day. The options are endless.

As a photographer I have suggested subtle changes to the timeline that may effect the quality of images, but those of course are only suggestions. If it is something you cannot change, well that’s okay too. As professionals we are very capable of making adjustments without gripe. But when the sunset is at 8 o'clock and outdoor formals are at 7:30, those strobes have to come out of the bags. Personally I love shooting with strobes so this isn’t ever an issue, but for some, it may present some problems. Unless of course the weather makes a change the night before. Learn who your photographers are.

I started keeping my Brides up to date on weather changes as the wedding date creeps ever so closely. Sometimes even throwing in a plan “B” as food for thought because not everything will go as planned. You’re not just hiring a wedding photographer, you’re hiring a producer that will be by your side, and even sometimes a shoulder to cry on when “shit hits the fan”. Sometimes, not everyone is like that, I only speak for myself in that realm.

No matter how stressed out you are, a great photographer is calm during the storm

Nothing ever goes as planned. Before you start to freak, believe me, the day will be amazing and you will be as beautiful/handsome as ever. But something is always going to throw a curveball. Which is where this all comes into play. When I know who my Bride and Groom are, the mutual trust increases. When “Uncle Bob” decides to drink a little too much and be obnoxious, we are still going to be calm and working by your side. Or when your mom starts freaking out because a storm rolled up behind the wedding party before we’ve started the group shots. Yes that has happened before. Keeping composure and getting the shot before it’s too late is what it’s all about. The relationship that was formed between photographer and couple preempted moms reaction and before she knew it we were on our way to the ceremony before the storm.

Destination preparation

Yeah I went for a rhyme on that one, I couldn’t help myself. But the title says it all. One of my favorite things to do is travel! But it could pose as an issue if I don’t know who my clients are. That’s not to say I won’t fly 3,000 miles to shoot for a client I’ve never met. But the communication lines will be treated strongly. 

If you are planning a destination wedding, finding a photographer is absolutely at the top of the list of things you should be doing. Unless of course you like to travel with total strangers, whatever floats your boat. Keep in mind that as a photographer, we will be traveling with expensive gear. Personally I would prefer to arrive one day ahead of my clients or at least a day ahead of the wedding. But that is just a personal preference in case of any issues.

All in all, The point is to build a relationship with your photographer(s). We don’t need to be best friends and get a beer every Friday night. It’s just a much better situation when there is a story behind the photographs.