I got married back in 2009 when the wedding industry was pre-Pinterest, mason jars, and everything trendy. In fact, when I got married I was one of the first people to have a Photo Booth at the reception and it was considered novel.
I wasn’t a wedding photographer back then. In fact, I had just graduated college and was ready to start my professional career as a high school teacher. Life had other plans for me (clearly) and I never thought I would find myself in a career as a wedding photographer.
That being said, when I went to go hire my own wedding photographer, I had no idea what I was looking for.
Pretty pictures? Check.
People look happy? Check.
Coloring? Sure. Looks good.
See, I was clueless.
I’m super lucky that I ended up with a great photographer despite my naivety. But I sure do wish I would have had someone guide me through the steps of choosing a great wedding photographer.
Now that I’ve been a Maui wedding photographer for the past 7 or so years, I know what the ins-and-outs of a great wedding photographer look like.
And nowadays, I find that many friends are soliciting my advice when it comes to hiring a wedding photographer for their big day. (and a big pre-emptive THANK YOU to friends who want me to enjoy their wedding instead of working it!).
So here it is: my insider’s scoop on what to look for in a wedding photographer.
Do you like the photographer’s style? Their use of landscape, light, color, and emotion? There are SO many different styles out there. The film look, the contrasty, the colorful, the black and white – what style do you see hanging on your walls for the rest of your life (big question – but seriously – you’re going to have these photos FOREVER)?
Will the style you choose stand the test of time?
You have to be able to connect with your photographer.
When you chat with them does it feel like they’re an old friend? Do they put you at ease? Do they answer your emails in a timely fashion? Are they committed to getting to know you and your sweetie?
It sounds trivial, but your photographer is going to be a really important part of your day and privy to intimate and soul-baring moments. You want to feel comfortable with them!
This one. It’s uncomfortable to talk about. Money is always a tough issue – on both sides of the coin, believe me.
Most everyone has a budget for their wedding. The catering, the flowers, the venue, the music – it’s all expensive.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret: at the end of the day, the ONLY thing you’ll have after your wedding is your photos and your video (if you choose to invest in a videographer – which I also highly recommend). The flowers die, the food gets eaten, the venue closes, the music fades – but your photos last forever.
Think about that for a second. Think about Grandma and Grandpa’s photos, your parents, your siblings. Life happens so fast and takes unexpected turns (sometimes for the worse) – you want to have this day documented so you can look back in 50 years and relive it all over again.
I can’t tell you what the perfect budget for you is. But I can tell you that as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. And skimping on a photography budget really isn’t going to be worth it in the long run.
So make an investment that your grandkids will thank you for.
4. CREATING LIGHT
I see SO many photographers marketing themselves as “natural light photographers”. And I get it: I prefer to shoot in the natural light too! We have stunning sunsets here on Maui and our lighting can be absolutely gorgeous (as well as crazy harsh sometimes – just being real!) and as a photographer I love to utilize the light I have.
But what happens when the sun goes down? As a photographer, you have to make your own light. Some photographers use video lights, others just up their ISO and don’t use flash – we all have our different ways.
I use the power of speed lights (off-camera flash). I’ve invested thousands over the past few years learning how to use speed lights to produce my own light after the sun has sunk well below the horizon.
It has been one hell of a learning curve, but it has also been incredibly rewarding. In fact, a few weeks ago I shot a rainy day wedding where it was SO gray and dark all day that I wonder what a photographer would have done if they didn’t know how to use flash! Here are some shots from that day.
So ask your photographer to see photos they have taken after dark! If you have any reception coverage after that sun goes down, it’s important to see how they create their own light after Mother Nature has turned in for the evening!
5. CUSTOMER REVIEWS
Do your research. Look up the photographer you’re interested in on Google, Yelp, The Knot (if they use that site) – everywhere! If people had a great experience, they’ll typically share.
And, almost more importantly, if they did not have a great experience, they’re even more likely to spread the word.
I managed a coffee shop throughout college and the owner used to tell me that if a person loved our coffee, they would go tell one friend. However, if they hated our coffee, they’d go tell five. It’s the way the world works.
Over the years, I’ve collected reviews on several sites:
Yelp (I’ve accumulated the most here for whatever reason!)
Google (hit or miss – people have a hard time finding where to leave a review)
The Knot (I’m torn about this site – they always want you to be paid to get featured and that just rubs me the wrong way!)
Wherever it is that you’re finding your reviews, be sure to read at least 10 reviews. See what other people have to say – it will help you feel more confident about your decision (one way or another)! And if you’re unsure, ask your photographer if they can chat with one or two of their former clients!
So there you have it: my insider’s scoop on how to pick your Maui wedding photographer. Even if you aren’t getting married here, I hope this list served as a good starting point for choosing your wedding photographer!