Sometimes I forget just how hard it is to choose a wedding photographer. I look at photographs ALL THE TIME, so I have learned how to see stylistic differences. I am familiar with the price ranges of our Hampton Roads wedding market, and I know what the starting photographers charge and what the experienced wedding photographers charge. And I've talked to and second shot with enough photographers to know that not every photographer offers their clients the same experience.
See all these gorgeous ladies? These are the attendees from the 2015 Amy & Jordan workshop in Richmond. Two full days of learning how to better ourselves as photographers and business owners. Most of these ladies live in Virginia. So technically we are competing for the same couples.
But are we really? It's safe to assume that many of us are at different price points. In fact, I would not be surprised to see at least a $2000 range between us, which means that couples would be able to determine which of us would NOT work for them based on budget. This is often the first determining factor for people, because it's often the easiest to see and draw a firm line on.
The second factor that would separate us is style. This can be hard for many people to compare, because they don't know what to look for as they're sifting through wedding after wedding. A few easy things to look for: Bright colorful images vs soft subdued images. natural edits vs heavily edited. Sunflare vs high contrast. Use of props vs natural posing. All these things distinguish one photographer from another. After looking for these things, maybe you feel most drawn to bride & groom portraits that are outside at sunset with a wide variety of poses, but you're not sure where you land on editing. That's a great starting point! I talk more about photography style vs budget in this post. I talk more about photography style vs budget in this post.
And that brings us to experience. It can be challenging to take into account the experience that each photographer offers, because most people don't have a bullet point list of everything they're going to do for you on their website. The most noticeable experiential difference between two photographers might be that one offers an engagement session in the wedding package and the other doesn't. Maybe that photographer also answers emails quickly, sends you a handwritten note when you book, helps you put together your timeline, and delivers your images two weeks before you expected them. You'd have a vastly different experience with these two photographers!
I think it's safe to say that all of the ladies above would fall into the second category. More than just people who show up on the wedding day and take photos of what happens. Offering a complete experience, means caring about the couple as people and the wedding day as a whole and going above and beyond to make sure the everything is perfect for the couple.
That brings me to a fun story about me and Lauren Simmons. Lauren is also a Virginia Beach wedding photographer, but we hadn't met until we both signed up for this workshop and looked for carpool/hotel share arrangements. Now she is one of my best friends. In 2016, I asked her to be my backup photographer for a wedding late in my pregnancy. She ended up coming to third shoot with me so that I could take breaks during the event while still giving the couple complete coverage of their day.
After the wedding, Lauren gave me clarity on something I'd never been able to put into words when she said, "They never would have hired me." She didn't mean that as a slight against the couple in any way. She meant that the bride was such a PERFECT FIT for my personality that they would have been repelled by Lauren's personality from her very first email correspondence with them!
Lauren is bubbly and energetic and outgoing and her client interaction reflects that. She asks couples to laugh towards the camera and bridal parties to cheer and get excited during portraits. Because her brides are bubbly and energetic and outgoing.
CGP brides, for the most part, are much less outgoing. In fact, I would say most would describe themselves as the quieter one in the relationship. And this is reflected in the way we pose: cuddly, turned in towards each other, it's more about them than the camera. Our brides are very organized (or they want someone to give them an organizational structure) so they appreciate that we are very hands-on with the timeline and other aspects of the wedding day.
We spend A LOT of time with our couples on the wedding day. Sometimes more time than they spend with each other. So when our personalities and the experience that we offer our couples is a perfect fit for them (in addition to our style and price point), it's a wonderful thing!
This is why I encourage everyone to do their research when choosing a wedding photographer. Even if that means it's not me. I'm not the wedding photographer for everyone. And I'm ok with that.
Your memories are too important to rush this decision. Your memories are too important to choose based on price alone. Your memories are too important.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed
Top Photo: Amy & Jordan