Finding the ideal photographer for your intimate wedding or elopement can feel daunting. This PNW is saturated with photographic talent (which is great!), but this can make the sifting process seem endless. You’re looking for someone who shares your vision, who speaks to you on an artistic level, someone you can feel at ease with on the most important day of your life, and someone who is technically savvy, ready to flow with the unexpected and can roll with the punches.
So where do you start? What questions are pertinent and how do you make sure that what you want translates through the questions you ask and is actually what you’re getting?
While there are ‘rules’ to creating an objectively ‘good’ photo that follows artistic guidelines, documenting emotion is something a seasoned documentary photographer will be ready for- anticipating moments and knowing how to tell your story in the most beautiful and truthful way. So there is a balance: understanding that emotion is important and knowing how to translate this in photos, being prepared for anything (rain, having backup equipment, insurance, etc), and not neglecting composition and the ‘rules’ of art in photography.
If you have a list of questions you’re working off while getting to know photographers, awesome! This should at least supplement.
What to ask your prospective photographer:
How long have you been shooting WEDDINGS and ELOPEMENTS? It’s super important for your photographer to understand how to be present at a wedding/elopement, how to navigate a (potentially ever shifting), timeline, knows how to put you and your partner at ease, and gives you permission to be your authentic self. Knowing what time of day and calculating where at your location will be best for photos of you and your partner, obtaining permits when eloping in private or public lands are key factors as well. Intimate wedding and elopement photography is very different than having a passion for going on nature hikes and taking photos of birds and breathtaking landscapes. Both are lovely, but two very different animals and require their own unique approaches. That being said, I’ve been documenting weddings and elopements for 15+ years and still constantly find opportunities to learn and grow.
Have you ever/do you shoot film? If yes, this can indicate that they have founded knowledge of light, analogue camera functions and composition and don’t rely on post-processing to get the look they want. They’ll likely be able to handle tricky things like low light, less than ideal lighting, movement in many situations, etc.
How many photos on average per hour do you shoot and deliver? This can vary a lot. I shoot roughly 200-300 per hour, delivery is about 1/3 of the photos taken that day. In part to not overwhelm you with 4000 photos.
What does your back up system look like? Ideally they will be using some form of cloud based backup as well as a couple external hard drives or three. Your wedding photos should exist in multiple places, be backed up in multiple places, and stored in multiple places. You can’t redo your wedding/elopement day, so keeping your photos safe is paramount.
Will you bring extra gear to our wedding? YES!!! A seemingly absurd amount of batteries, extra chargers, countless memory cards, I bring at least three digital camera bodies (plus film), lenses to change out, if using flash/strobe a couple of those as well.
What lenses do you use? They should name at least three. My go-to lenses that I always have with me are my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens, Nikon 85mm 1.4, Nikon 24-70mm 2.8, and Nikon 50mm 1.8.
Ideally, what would you like our wedding/elopement day to feel like? This should align with what you want your day to feel like. Make sure the things that are important to you are also priorities to them. For instance, if you love real emotion, make sure your photographer loves taking candid photos. If you want to showcase the natural beauty of where you’ll be getting married, make sure you see photos that they’ve created that compliment the environment. To help quell stress, ask your photographer if they’re willing to work closely with you and/or your coordinator (if you’re working with one) to have a well drawn out map for the day, or are well seasoned in timeline creation and can help guide you to make your own.
What is it like working with you? This is all you. (Feel free to ask me this, if we’re a good fit, what you want your day to feel like and how I operate should line up.)
Are you insured? This answer should always be ‘yes.’
What happens if it rains? Being based in Portland, rain is always possible so one should be prepared. It takes some forethought, but it’s simple to prepare most camera gear for rain. And no matter what, embracing a soggy elopement day or however the weather decides to play out will always be the way to go.
Can I see a full wedding indoor/outdoor/good weather/rainy day? This will show you how consistent their work is. Seeing one or two photos on a curated website does not tell you much by way of knowing that they will feel confident in shooting your entire wedding or elopement with quality and consistency.
I hope you found this info helpful. Above anything else, savor these sweet times of planning together and planning your future- wedding and beyond. Breathe these moments in, they go by so quickly. As always, I’m here to help. AND HAVE FUN!