How to Shop for a Wedding Photographer

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You're engaged. CONGRATULATIONS!! Now what?  Wedding planning!  How do you do that, you ask?  Where do you start?  There are books after books and blogs after blogs on how to do this correctly.  We've been there... we know!  Shopping for your wedding is unique in that you've never done it before and you'll never do it again.  You only have ONE shot!  It's not something you can make a mistake on and do better next time because there won't be a next time.  It's as they say, "A once in a lifetime opportunity".  There's so much to wedding planning and although we are not experienced in all aspects of it, we are experts in one thing for sure - yup, wedding photography! ;) This blog is for all of our newly engaged couples out there who are shopping for their wedding photographer, and we want you to make a decision you won't regret.  A wise decision takes knowledge which comes from education, and with wedding planning, that has to happen quickly and that's why we are writing this blog to help and for you to consider things that you may have never even thought about!

Over the years, we have had hundreds of couples hire us and they call, text and email us about how much they LOVE what we delivered.  They even text us on their honeymoon!  Say whaaaaaat?  We are so grateful for these reviews.  But, we've also had countless brides call after their wedding because they regretted not booking us and then hire us for a post wedding portrait session.  We do not want you to become the latter.  Now, wedding photography service is limited because it's determined by the availability of the date. We of course can't book every single couple that inquires us.  In fact, half of our inquires are denied because we are already booked.  But, even this can be prevented for the most part if you plan right.  So, here are some tips and suggestions and honesty in how to shop without being a photography expert yourself.  

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As a consumer, when you shop, you know when something catches your eye.  You stop, look at it and can't help but like it.  Then, your heart becomes attached to it and you begin desiring it.  When that happens with wedding photography, that's the product you want.  You know you want it, but when it comes to actually purchasing it, it's another story because now you have to think about this thing called money.  

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I believe that everyone has money for what's important to them.  

Regardless if the person realizes that or not.  That's the bottom line.  And this applies to all the decisions that you make for your wedding day.  You're going to be spending a lot of money for your wedding - everyone knows that.  Yes, spend the money, but not for the sake of spending it just because you're supposed to - spend it RIGHT!  Spend it where it matters.  When someone tells me, "We can't afford it", I translate that to, "It's not important to me."  We had the most high end weddings and the most low budget weddings all in the same weekend.  We've had brides that didn't flinch an eye with our pricing and then we've had brides where we were the most expensive vendor they hired including venue and food, but still made it happen no matter what because it was IMPORTANT to them.  So, before anyone tells you anything or convinces you of something that you 'really' need at your wedding, you have to decide for yourself and make an educated decision on what's important to YOU.  From that, make your budget.  But, you can't budget correctly if you don't know what the market is either.  Don't get advice from anyone... get it from the right source.  What I mean is, don't ask about wedding photography or what your budget on that should be from the baker or the videographer, the planner, your parents, the magazine article writer who has never taken a photo on a wedding day, the maid of honor who is still single or from someone who got married 20 years ago or even 10.  And, before you begin any shopping, one fact you must know is that when you purchase anything, "you get what you pay for."  This is why it's so important for you to know what you want and what is important to you before the options are laid out in front of you.  So, here are the priceless things you may have not have thought about or considered when hiring a wedding photographer:

1.  Experience/Service

Photography is without question important, but does your photographer have experience with weddings and will they give you a good experience?  Did you know that you will spend more time with your photographer close by your side even more than your groom on your wedding day?!  Make sure you like them!  Like really like them!  Will they make your day fun?  Do they have the leadership skills to lead your wedding party for the group shots?  Do they have what it takes to quickly have backup plans if it rains or something just doesn't go according to plan?  Will they be able to handle the stress of a wedding day?  How’s their service?  Are they full time photographers who can dedicate time to your needs?  Do they pursue you because they want your business?  Do they care about your wedding day or is it just another wedding?  Are they going to answer your emails and texts and deliver what they say they would in a timely manner?  What's their reputation?  Will your photographer give you honest feedback about your makeup or your outfits when everyone else is saying, "You look beautiful" just because they're supposed to say it?  Experience is completely priceless... this is something that a photographer just can't go purchase like another piece of equipment.  How many times have you gone to a nice restaurant with nice food, but the service just flat out sucked?  Will you go back?  Experience in the end is what you're purchasing, so don't compromise in this area. No matter how great their photography seems to be, if they're not nice human beings who will treat you and your time with respect, you're not going to be happy.

2.  Lighting

Have you heard of “natural light photographers?”  That’s another way of saying, “I can only shoot when there’s good light”.  What you want on your wedding day is a professional photographer who can shoot in ANY light!  Even in NO light!  That’s what photography is... it's all about the lighting!  Being an expert and a scientist with light or the lack of and no matter what still capture the moment is what your photographer needs to be able to do.  Think about reception lighting where it’s usually dark to set the atmosphere. Will your photographer know how to use flash to get those shots?  What if you have a rainy/cloudy day?  What if you’re getting ready in an ugly fluorescent lighting (green tint) mixed with tungsten (orange light) while the windows are open (blue light). What if it’s pitch dark during your grand exit and there’s barely any light and on top of that, you’re walking out with bubbles and not sparklers?  We recently had a wedding where they had to swap the ceremony and the reception.  Because it poured and the ceremony was planned outdoors, they had the reception first to wait for the rain to subside.  It finally did and when the ceremony finally started, it was completely dark except a few strings of light.  What would your photographer do if that happens on your wedding day?  ASK!  Ask your photographer and make sure they know what they're talking about.  But, you may not understand all the photog lingo.  So, the best thing to do is to ask for a FULL wedding day album from a few weddings, not just their best of the best portfolio from various weddings that they post on their Instagram or shots that they had from a styled shoot where the environment is totally controlled and was fake.  You want portfolio from real weddings.   Look for CONSISTENCY!  Does it seem like it's a hit or miss with their photos?  Then yeah, it probably is... make sure your photographer consistently delivers excellence.

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3.  Direction / Posing

A wedding photographer must have the skills to make "everyday people" look like "models".  Yes, most of the couples that we work with either have very minimum experience as a model or none at all.  But, don't they all look like models?  Yes, they do!  And no, it's not by chance.  It's because there's direction from the photographer.  The photographer has to know how to pose you.  They have to know how to make you feel comfortable in front of the camera when you feel awkward. They have to know how to make you laugh and smile naturally when there's nothing to laugh about.  Have you heard that the camera adds on 10 pounds?  Does it really or is it the photographer?  It doesn't matter how skinny a person is, if the pose isn't right, it will not be flattering.  Cameras are not forgiving and it's the photographer's job to know how to use it.  When it comes to the way you look, it's all about the pose and the angle.  Think about the movie industry.  Why is the 'director' of a movie such a big deal?  More than asking who the actor is, the right question to ask is who the director is to see if the movie is going to be any good.  Now, I know that it's team work for sure, but if you have a bad director, even the best actors can't produce their best acting.  A wedding photographer is unique in that they have to be able to direct a couple who doesn't have any experience in front of the camera look like pros in a matter of minutes in the midst of the hustle and the bustle of a wedding day.

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4.  Technical skills

"That camera must take good pictures!"  I think many or all photographers will agree, but that is one comment that makes us laugh.  Have you tried using a DSLR (not on auto!) to take a photo?  Do you wonder why every other one come out blurry?  It's not the easiest thing and no manual can help you shoot an entire wedding.  Here's an analogy... If you're a violinist, do you think it matters what kind of violin you have?  If you don't know how to cook, do you think getting a better stove will help?  Weddings are action pact days and although a photographer can't capture every SINGLE moment, you don't want them to miss a special moment because they were trying to figure out their settings.  Let's not forget photoshop skills too.  In our digital age, yes, as a photographer, you need photoshop skills.  Just like REALLY knowing how to use a DSLR, you need GOOD photoshop skills.  Yeah, you still want to look like YOU on your photos.  I can't get into every detail of these technical skills on this one blog, but I think you get the point.  ;) 

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Again, you get what you pay for.  Just like anything else, this saying applies to photography and rightly so. Not just in photos, but in service and experience. We are here to make your wedding and your wedding photos memorable in an epic way because it deserves to be. Quality is something we will never compromise because that’s what we expect as consumers too. Don’t let money get in the way. If photography is important to you, then our advice is for you is to take something else out of your wedding like unnecessary decor, favors or decreasing the number of guests. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this?  Will anyone care or notice?"  Because in the end, and I’m sure you’ve heard, all you’ll have left are your wedding photos to remember them by and to share them with those who weren’t able to make it and for your future family.  It’s a legacy!  The sentimental value that photography holds is truly invaluable.  So, happy planning to all of you who are engaged!  We are excited to work with you and if you have questions, ask away!  Can't wait to meet you on our coffee date!  ;)  You can always come visit us on our Instagram, Instagram stories and Facebook!  We now have a NEW designs page on Instagram too!  We appreciate the follow!  (And by the way, that's us down there.) 

 We are Craig + Unchong of Craig Obrist Photography.  Our goal is for you to get your money's worth!  We don't just love what we do.... we love YOU and care about you and your wedding day.  See you at your wedding!

We are Craig + Unchong of Craig Obrist Photography.  Our goal is for you to get your money's worth!  We don't just love what we do.... we love YOU and care about you and your wedding day.  See you at your wedding!

With much love,

Craig + Unchong