Before you hire one photographer or turn down another, you’ll want to have satisfactory answers to at least five important questions. Except they’re not all questions for the photographer. Some are for you.
May I see some complete weddings?
You’d be surprised at how many photographers fake their portfolios, even right here in your local Wisconsin area. I’ve found several of them myself. Copyright violations vary from stuffing a few stock images into portfolios or completely ripping off everything on the website. Good portfolios aren’t enough in the 21st century. You must see at least two complete weddings from a photographer, in the form of albums or online galleries.
How emotionally engaging is the person?
If the photographer isn’t engaging you now in conversation and storytelling, he won’t be on the wedding day either. Anyone can talk about how great they are, but if actions don’t follow the words, you won’t get the experience they’re advertising. If a photographer talks about telling stories, he should show you those stories (albums, slideshows, galleries). There should be a story behind every image.
If the website talks about skill, the photographer should follow up and talk about how he made those images. If he tells you about service, he should have examples of how that service helped clients. Actions are truth.
How authentic and relevant are the reviews?
Reviews are helpful, but they’re not foolproof. For one, look past the number and read the relevant reviews. Many photographers have more reviews for portraits than they do weddings. As an experienced professional with a diverse background, I can say wedding photography is its own category. Portraits, commercial, photojournalism have virtually nothing to do with how well someone can photograph a wedding. The only experience that counts for weddings is shooting weddings.
Also look for clues about the actual client experience. Simple reviews like this don’t really say anything useful: “Jane Q was so amazing. She was so professional and she got all the shots we wanted. We had so much fun.” Of course a professional should be fun and get the shots you want. That should be a 2-3 star review, not 5.
Are they actively solving problems, or creating them?
Initial interactions with a wedding photographer will tell you a lot. Are they slow in getting back to you? Do they not respond? Are they excited, cranky, helpful? You’re paying them to solve problems, not create them. If someone is unhelpful or creating problems before booking, it’s a good preview of how your experience will be after you book. It’s true the other way too. If they’re helpful and friendly now, there’s a good chance they’ll be helpful and friendly after you book. But scammers are friendly too. Factor everything into your decision.
Are there any more stones you can turn over?
Don’t be quick to dismiss a photographer just because you don’t have enough information or haven’t yet been offered an incentive. Don’t be afraid to just ask for that deciding piece of the puzzle. Good photographers work hard to exceed expectations, but they’re not mind readers.
Are you ready for a photographer who will commit to your results? Contact me to set up a free consult, and I’d be happy to understand your preferences, answer questions, and show you more about my wedding photography.
Joel Nisleit is the founder and lead wedding photographer at Joel Nisleit Photography, serving Fond du Lac, Madison and Milwaukee areas. He helps brides get elegant photography collections they cherish. Contact Joel for service and pricing information.