Welcome Chapter 1 of the Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your San Antonio Wedding Photographer. At the end of this series you'll have all the information you could ever need to make sure you're hiring the right wedding photographer for you. We're going to start with the different types of wedding photographers you're going to come across because how a photographer works will have a huge impact on how your photographs turn out, and this isn't something you can learn from looking at their website.
In order to help you find the right type of photographer we're going to break them down into four different categories:
- The "art and experience focused" wedding photographers
- The "what's currently in style" wedding photographers
- The "event photographer" wedding photographers
- The "inexperienced" wedding photographers
For starters, within each of these categories you'll find a variety artistic styles, and I promise we'll get to that but I swear, how a photographer works so much more important. Yes, this is more important than the artistic style. Weddings are rather stressful and difficult to photograph. We have to focus on creating art under extremely specific schedules, and if you end up with a photographer who can't do this, it doesn't matter how beautiful of photographs they CAN take during a normal, low pressure portrait shoot, they won't be able to to capture your wedding with their artistic style.
Your wedding photographs aren't just going to be looked at when you post them on social media, they're going to be revisited by your children and grand children, and you through the years. What do you want to see in these photos, besides you two kissing, exchanging rings, etc? Is it the personalities and emotions of the day? Perhaps it's the vibe of the day, the beautiful event you planned and orchestrated. Or maybe you honestly do not care - you just want the moments of the day captured.
If you want to be happy with your wedding photography choose your photographer carefully.
the art & experience focused wedding photographer
The "art and experience focused" wedding photographer is the person who is typically aware of the latest trends in the wedding photography industry, but doesn't necessary follow them. They have developed business practices that allow them to create unique and personal artwork for their clients and might have different policies than most other wedding photographers because of this. Chances are they spend a lot of their personal time on personal projects. Art is a passion in their life, they're driven by the need to create art and spend a lot of time focused on furthering their learning of their craft.
This photographer will work closely with your wedding planner / coordinator to make sure the day is unfolding according to schedule, and if it isn't they'll already have a Plan B and Plan C as to how they'll capture different elements of your wedding. They want you to experience your wedding day, not to be stressed out about if this, that, or the other thing is happening as planned. They'll invest a lot of time and energy into planning your wedding day coverage.
This type of wedding photographer has a personal style that has developed over years of focused work. When I say "their style", I'm not just talking about how they edit. It's the way they use lighting, the lenses they use for different parts of the wedding day, the different ways they extract natural and genuine emotion from people while taking their portraits. Their style will be seen through all of their work, not just in the photographs. You'll notice that their website and social media presences are very in sync and everything matches. The products they offer and very carefully thought out and are likely unique, different from the standard options most other photographers offer.
PROS: Your wedding photographs will be one-of-a-kind pieces of art that feature your personalities and love for each other. they will work with you a lot prior to your wedding to make sure they can capture what you want, and that you understand what they'll need from you to create their work.
cons: your photographer will have a bigger say in different aspects of your wedding, the timeline for example. they know what they need to create their artwork and aren't satisfied creating anything less than that for their clients.
The what's currently in style wedding photographer
The "what's currently in style" wedding photographers are the most common, and perhaps the most popular. Their work reflects the current popular editing and photography styles that they find attractive. Every 5 or 6 years as the styles and trends change they'll re-brand themselves so their business fits in with what is currently popular. If you're in love with the kind of photographs you see all over Pinterest and in the biggest national wedding magazines then this is your kind of photographer.
To this photographer photography is primarily their job. They spend most of their photography time creating similar images for all of their clients and have very consistent work. They have mastered one specific way of shooting and are known for it. They will have a fair amount of experience with weddings, and chances are they're going to be keeping a close eye on the clock on your wedding day. If things are running later than scheduled they are likely going to work with you to make sure everything you want photographed can be done before they are scheduled to leave.
pros: you have a better chance at being featured in a wedding magazine or blog, and this photographer can handle whatever gets thrown their way on the wedding day.
cons: Your wedding photographs will not be very unique and will look "just like EVERYONE elses", and they will be dated in 10 years as most styles and trends don't stand the test of time,
the event photographer wedding photographer
The "event photographer" wedding photographer is perfect for the couple who just want photos documenting they day, but aren't particularly worried about the specifics. This is the wedding photographer who will stand back and just capture the day. If they're scheduled to leave at 9pm and you haven't cut the cake yet, they aren't going to ask you at 8:45pm if you want to cut the cake before they leave. The schedule of the day is completely up to you, and completely managed by you (and/or your coordinator). Their work is consistent and they have experience in different types of lighting situations, but portraits and detail shots aren't likely going to be their strong suit.
They typically won't offer much in terms of professionally printed photography projects, you're most likely to get a USB of the images and you're on your own when it comes to prints, albums, etc. You won't have access to high-quality labs, so the products you order will be lower quality and you'll have to invest your time into finding, creating and ordering these products.
pros: this photographer doesn't need much from you to do their job - they'll show up and photograph the day. This photographer is typically less expensive than the previous types as they have less wedding experience.
cons: they likely won't be able to ACCOMMODATE very many specific requests, and you aren't likely to have very many photos of the details and decor. You'll have a huge time investment on your part for low quality products and PRINTS.
The inexperienced wedding photographer
The "inexperienced" wedding photographer can either be a friend or family member who loves photography but has little to no experience with professional photography, or it can be a children / family portrait photographer who is experienced at what they do, but has never photographed a wedding before. A lot of professional wedding photographers start here - the first few weddings I ever photographed were as this kind of photographer.
Chances are they'll give it 100%, but having very little experience they will miss a lot of shots that the other types of photographers will catch. They might not know how to handle different lighting situations, and they typically aren't experienced with fast-paced events. On the business side of things if they already have a thriving children / family portrait business you're in better hands and can expect to get your images back in a reasonable amount of time, though you'll likely just being getting a USB of the files. If they're just a friend or family member who loves photography there is no guarantee as to when you'll see the images from your wedding day.
Pros: this photographer requires the least up-front financial investment on your part.
Cons: you're gambling on your wedding photography - not just the quality of the photographs, but their lack of experience means a lot will be missed. Weddings aren't their passion, and if photography isn't their business there is always a chance they simply won't show up.
how do I know what kind of wedding photographer I'm talking to?
Soooo many wedding blogs and magazines will publish different lists of "25 questions to ask your wedding photographer", but most of the questions don't actually provide you with any information that helps you make a decision. They're usually either really stupid, obvious questions that you can answer yourself from looking at the photographers website, or they're questions that sound good but the photographer's answer doesn't really tell you anything unless you're already educated in the world of wedding photography. Throw away those lists, and start first with this one.
Here is a list of very generalized questions you can ask yourself when you're searching for wedding photographers. Take into account that all photographers operate a little bit differently and not all of these questions will apply to every photographer. Asking yourself all of these questions will get you a good feel for what kind of photographer you're looking at.
When you're looking at a San Antonio wedding photographer's website and social media, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is their work consistent? (Do their images have a similar look and feel to them? Can you tell they were all taken by the same photographer?)
- If yes, then you're looking at an art & experience focused photographer or a what's currently in style photographer, potentially even a more experienced event photographer. Their style is part of who they are and they are booked because of that. *Hint* Don't ask a photographer to recreate another photographer's work, it's offensive and defeats the purpose of hiring the photographer that you did. If you want a certain type of image then hire a photographer whose work looks like that.
- If their images are all over the place in terms of style then you're likely looking at a less experienced event photographer or an inexperienced photographer. They haven't found themselves yet as photographers and are still experimenting. It's going to be hard to know what your wedding photographs will look like until after your wedding.
- What is their starting price point? (You might not get this information until you contact them.)
- If it's ABOVE $2,500, chances are you're looking at an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer.
- If it's BELOW $2,500 you're looking at an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer.
- These are very rough numbers as different photographer structure their packages differently, but on average this example will hold true for San Antonio wedding photographers.
- Is their branding consistent?
- If you look at their website and all social media accounts (Facebook page, Instagram, etc.) and can automatically tell it is for the same company then you're likely looking at an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer.
- If their business name is the only way you can tell it's their social media account, and there is no obvious branding, then you're looking at an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer.
- Branding is the face of a photographer's business, and the more seriously they take their business the more seriously they'll take their branding.
- Is their content recent and up to date?
- If they have recently posted blog posts and are active on social media a few times a week then you're likely looking at an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer.
- If they have social media accounts, but no website you could be looking at an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer.
- If they do not have a blog, website, or any social media accounts this is likely an inexperienced photographer.
- Is their work featured on local, state or national wedding blogs and websites?
- If they are regularly featured on wedding blogs and websites then you're looking at an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer, but this isn't always the case. There are lot of art & experience focused photographers who have no interest in being published and are focused solely on their clients. This can also be the case for some what's currently in style photographers.
- Event photographers and inexperienced photographers will virtually never have been published in wedding blogs and magazines.
When you contact a San Antonio wedding photographer for more information, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is their communication prompt and professional?
- If the e-mails, phone calls, etc you receive are always prompt and have proper grammar then you're most likely talking to an art & experience focused photographer, a what's currently in style photographer, or an event photographer. This is a huge signal as to if you can rely on them, so take note of how they communicate with you.
- If they consistently take a really long time to reply and don't seem concerned with professionalism you are talking to an inexperienced photographer.
- Are they wanting to set up a consultation with you before you hire them?
- If yes, you're most likely talking to an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer. They want to get to know you before taking your money, and they want to make sure they are the right photographer for you. You can expect to get more detailed pricing information and you will likely leave the consultation knowing exactly what you can, and cannot, expect from them as your wedding photographer.
- If no, you're talking to an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer.
- Do they require a deposit and signed contract to book your wedding date?
- If yes, you're talking to an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer. They take their business seriously and want to protect both you and them from any potential issues by requiring a signed contract. The deposit insures they can turn down all future inquiries for your wedding date. This could also be the case with an event photographer, depending on their level of experience with weddings.
- If no, you could either be talking to an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer. By not signing a contract with them you have no guarantee as to what you will receive in terms of quality or quantity of images.
- Do they answer all of your questions, and take the time to explain their answers?
- If yes, you're talking to an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer. They want you to understand why they do things a certain way and understand that you likely have never hired a wedding photographer before. They want to make sure you have all the information so you can make an informed decision about something as important as your wedding photography coverage.
- If no, you're talking to an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer. Weddings are just another gig. This doesn't mean they won't put any effort into photographing your wedding, but for them it is not any different than photographing a birthday party, or a sports event.
During the consultation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they explain what makes them unique?
- If yes, you're likely talking to an art & experience focused photographer. They'll want you to know what makes them stand apart from the crowd, and they'll make sure you understand what they need from you in order to create their work.
- If no, you could be talking to a a what's currently in style photographer or an event photographer. Their work is pretty typical and they'll work with whatever your wedding day ends up being.
- Most inexperienced photographers don't have consultations with their wedding clients.
- Do they want to meet with you additional times before the wedding day? (This might take the form of engagement or bridal portrait sessions, or it could also be just a 1 on 1 meeting)
- If so then you're likely talking to an art & experience focused photographer, or a what's currently in style photographer. They know the importance of building a relationship with you so you can trust them on your wedding day, which makes the photographs much better. Occasionally event photographers will fall into this category, but rarely.
- If not then you're talking to an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer. They don't have the interest, or experience, to make a good use of this extra time and it wouldn't end up impacting the wedding day photographs.
- Do they take the time to educate you on the following: the role time-of-day plays in outdoor photography, the amount of time they will need to capture different elements of the wedding day, when and how they'll deliver images to you, etc.?
- If yes, then you're talking to an art & experience focused photographer or a what's currently in style photographer. They take weddings seriously and understand that this is likely your first time hiring a photographer. They want you to know what you can expect, and want to work with you to insure that you get beautiful wedding day photographs. This often involves them playing a role in planning your wedding day timeline.
- If no, then you're talking to an event photographer or an inexperienced photographer. They will just work with whatever situation your wedding day gives them, and if that means not having enough time for portraits, or only taking portraits in an ugly hallway then that is what will happen.
okay, so that's great, but where do I find wedding photographers?
Referrals are the best way to find the perfect photographer for you. I've met my best clients through referrals, and it's because my existing clients already know how I work, and they know what their friends need. With a referral you're not going in blind, you are going to hear from someone with first hand experience with this photographer what it is like working with them, what kind of person they are, and what you can and can't expect from them.
- Ask your venue & wedding planner / coordinator if there are any photographers they recommend.
- Ask your recently married friends and family members about their wedding photographers.
- Google "San Antonio Wedding Photographers".
Finding a photographer couldn't be easier with social media & blogs. Try searching on Google for your venue and the term "wedding photographer blog" (for example, you'd type "St. Anthony Hotel wedding photographer blog"). Not only will you be able to see different wedding photographers, you'll get to see ones who've shot at your venue so you'll get a great example of what you can expect from your wedding photography, should you hire them. On Instagram look under the hashtags #sanantonioweddingphotographer, #sanantonioweddingphotography, etc. If you're a Pinterest addict search for your wedding venue (you may want to add "wedding" into the search terms if you're getting a lot of random results). You can also search for "San Antonio Wedding Photographer" in Google's Image search, or specifically "your venue name wedding photography" (like, St. Anthony Hotel Wedding Photography, for example).
So what about online directories, like The Knot, or Wedding Wire? They're great resources to find lists of photographers in your area - just one catch. It can be difficult to get a feel for the type of photographer they are through their profile on these directories. If you have no clue where to start this is a great option as it can show you what all is available in your area. The blog, or "real weddings" section of these kind of websites will give you a great feel for all these different photographers because you'll be able to see more of an entire wedding, start to finish, than you'll see in their directory profiles.
At the end of the day - trust is a must
I'll wrap this post up with this - when you're talking with different photographers keep this one thing in mind: the absolute most important thing you need in your wedding photographer is trust. If you don't trust them then you'll be distracted the entire wedding day, trying to make sure they're doing their job - keeping you from actually experiencing your wedding day. You'll also being getting ready (to some degree) around your photographer, and if you feel uncomfortable you will look uncomfortable in the photographs. You're trusting intimate and emotional moments of such an important day to someone, it is vital that you trust them.