WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE | Finding your perfect match
Hi there! We're assuming that you're here because you have recently become engaged and are thinking about getting down to business and starting your planning process. First off, congratulations! And second, welcome to our Kendal + Kevin Wedding Photography Guide. Planning a wedding is exciting but it is also no small task. Simply choosing a photographer is tough enough on it's own. All those Pinterest 'Top 5 ways to choose a photographer' articles are pretty much fluff and don't really give you any REAL help. You're suddenly shopping for something that you likely know little about or even know where to start looking. You quickly become overwhelmed as you're flooded with seemingly legit options that are tough to tell the difference. Don't worry, we get it. We were once on the flip-side and know how things can seem a little daunting. Now that we've got some experience, we want to give back :)
And so we have put together this (very thorough) guide to hopefully give you a head start, to cut through the crap and give you real helpful tips. WARNING... it's a little long haha... But ultimately, we want to bring you to a point where it's not so difficult to narrow things down and confidently make some decisions. So here it is - Finding your perfect match!
Wedding Photography in the modern age
Unless you are already married and have gone through the process, chances are that you haven't given much thought to Wedding Photography, until now that is. You might have some vague perceptions of what a wedding photographer is, but there's a lot that you probably won't know until you happen to meet with one of us (or read through this guide). In short, wedding photography has really evolved. Photographers still cover many traditional elements (for example, things like family formals are still important), but there's also a new wave. Don't want to feel awkward while posing for photos throughout the day? Good news! You won't have to. Want to have photos on top of a remote mountain by helicopter? Done. There are photographers lined up to make that happen for you. Want to fly your favourite photographer from Helsinki to your wedding in Winnipeg? Chances are you can do it! Modern Wedding Photography is all about opportunity and whatever you want is out there. The key is finding YOUR right match.
Wedding Photography | STYLES
So where do you start? Well understanding the general styles of wedding photography will help. Also understanding that there are both shooting and editing styles (two very different things but equally as important). As you scroll through your Instagram feed, you will probably notice that there are a few different 'looks' between different photographers. Someone posts epic shots of couples out in the mountains. Another photographer focuses on emotion with close-up shots of people laughing and 'happy-crying'. This is on purpose. Established photographers have a distinct style that they take pride in and have worked hard to perfect. Not-so-established photographers are working towards building their own distinct style. It's how we speak to clients and how we attract like-minded people.
Okay, so what are these so-called-styles? Truthfully, like genres of music, one could probably go on through the variety of styles in the world of wedding photography. That said, here are the 5 big shooting styles explained:
This is often referred to as a photo-journalistic approach, and it's where the photographer(s) capture the day without any or minimal interference. The images capture each scene as they naturally unfold, placing authenticity and realism above all else. Photos capture all of the small details that make up your wedding (seriously, a good documentary photographer will capture things you never would have thought of until after the fact). The final collection will tell the true story of your wedding day and you'll have amazing, genuine moments captured throughout.
- (Full disclosure, we might be a bit biased as this is our shooting style at Kendal + Kevin) While sharing a lot of elements with Documentary Photography, Lifestyle allows the photographer to guide and give direction as they see fit. The photographer won't feel shy if they see an opportunity for better lighting or composition. What does that mean? If a bride is getting ready in a dirty, dingy old room with no windows (this happens more than you think), the photographer might suggest that she moves to the next room with the beautiful soft window light. Authenticity, small details and genuine moments are also at a premium. Through the day some scenes are set up and then unfold organically with the photographer providing just enough direction to make the couple feel comfortable. The final collection is carefully curated to tell a beautiful story of your wedding day.
Fine Art Photography
- Fine Art Photographers put an emphasis on art… yes ok, but what else? This means they will be looking for artistic angles and unique compositions. The photographer has often a formal background in art or photography and knows how to apply that knowledge to their photos. Fine Art photographers differ in their approach, some give lots of direction while others tend to be more hands off. In the end your wedding collection will be full of stunning, artistic photos with a unique depiction of your day.
- Film Photography
- While the vast majority of wedding photographers out there are shooting digital, there has been a slow movement of film photographers growing in the industry.Truthfully, the only defining characteristic to categorize one into this group is the us of film as their medium. Film photographers themselves, can and do shoot in a variety of styles. There's some obvious downsides to the us of film vs digital - a major one being that you aren't receiving the same number of final images. In addition, it should be noted that ther is also greater room for error. That said, if a photographer is shooting in film they’re likely highly skilled and know their craft. You be the judge. If you're on the fence but really appreciate the film look you can always seek out a digital photographer that will edit their images to replicate that film look. VSCO has really become popular with this current trend.
- Traditional/Classic Photography
- The classic wedding photographer is the most familiar style when looking back on your family member's wedding photos. More traditional elements are paramount and posed shots are the norm here (shot lists aren't out of the question as well). Currently, it's more common for a classic photographer to mix in modern elements as well to keep the photos from feeling dated. You'll end up with a wedding collection filled with timeless shots.
Editing styles are just as important as a photographer's shooting style. Huh? Well, let us explain; three Lifestyle Photographers may shoot in a similar manner, but they will likely produce VERY different work simply based on their editing preferences/styles during post-production. Without getting too photo-geeky, photographers will use a number of post production techniques to tweak your photos to their vision. As you browse around you'll notice different styles, there's dark + moody, light + airy, film inspired, etc. There's truly endless variations. Each photographer has a specific vision (their photographer's 'eye') and it's totally fair for you to ask them to describe theirs. For example, at Kendal + Kevin Photography, we describe our editing style as "true to the moment, with a love for rich, natural colours and subtle warm undertones, adding a romantic touch". Pretty you say? We like to think so :)
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY | Budget
Okay, so you have nailed down some photographers that you're really excited about but now you need to decide how much you want to spend on your wedding photography. The first thing you have to ask yourself is 'how important is photography in the grand scheme of my wedding?' (psst… we think it's pretty important).
Wedding Photography Pricing - Why do photographers have different rates and how does it all work?
- Okay, think of dining out at a restaurant. You have loads of different choices with different price points and styles of food to choose from. In general, you expect better food/dining experience from a restaurant that charges high prices. And in reality, this is usually the case, however not always (don’t worry, those places eventually get sucky reviews and fade away). Wedding photography is sort of the same. The age-old mantra of 'you get what you pay for' is true for the most part. There are price points that range from below $1000 and go all the way up to $10,000 and beyond! (Eek! So much money!) That may sound overwhelming but the good news is that there's very talented photographers waiting for you at the majority of those price points, catering to each segment of the market in a unique way. The same way that your favourite take-out burger joint and posh restaurant both produce great food, but the overall experience and end product is completely different. The same is true here, photographers who are charging higher rates are providing a different product. It just totally depends on what your needs are and what you're looking for.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY | Price Points
Alright, so we can stop talking about food and explain what this means in terms of photography. In our market (Canadian Rockies... Wooo Great White North!) you can break things down into 4 main tiers of wedding photography:
- Budget Photographers (0-$2000) | In this category you will likely be hiring an amateur or hobbyist photographer. There's a good chance that they have some natural talent but are beginners to wedding photography or on the flipside they have worked 100+ budget weddings over the years and they are still producing work that makes you go 'yikes' (please don't hire these people). You can have expectations for the photographer to show up and take photos, without much else. Honestly, we have nothing against this type of photographer (this is where we got our start on our first wedding), but just caution, you'll be taking a risk. As long as you fully know that and are okay with it, you'll be fine shopping around in this space. There are likely a few hidden gems if you look hard enough.
- Mid-grade Photographers (2000-$4000) | Alrighty, now we're into fully/semi-professional territory. Here you can take comfort in knowing that you're hiring someone with some legitimate experience. They have done this before and they can help guide you along (this helps with nerves). You can expect a quality photographer and sometimes a second shooter/assistant. You should also expect a certain level of quality in your final delivered images (things like out of focus shots or incorrect exposure simply aren't acceptable). Typically you'll also get some additional perks like consultation meetings, engagement sessions and printing services. Photographers usually have quality gear and backup policies in place just in-case. This is a fairly competitive space and there are high-level photographers to be found here. As long as you do your homework, you'll land a professional.
- Upper-grade Photographers (4000-$7000) | This is when you start shopping through the fully established photographers. Here you can expect everything from the previous tier and more. It's very common for photographers in this price range to have their work published in blogs or magazines, as well as to have been recognized by their peers through awards or other means. Take these things for what you will but they're just another sign of merit. You can expect two high quality shooters (although there are some amazing lone wolf shooters out there!), and your delivered images will be consistently high quality with no room for error. If you don't want to mess around with your wedding photos, this is your zone. Want to have your wedding published? This is also where you want to be looking. Photographers will have high-quality gear and fail proof systems (meaning they backup everything… if something fails it's cool, they have a plan B). You can also expect a level of service that goes above and beyond, your photographer should feel like a best friend and will lend a hand whenever possible in the planning, on your wedding day and afterwards. Expect expert guidance throughout, location scouting, surprise gifts (yay) and high quality everything is a given. Your photographer should 'over-deliver'. It's highly competitive so you'll just have to stick to your style preference to help land you a photographer that's the right fit for you.
- Luxury-grade Photographers (7000-$10,000+) | This is a niche market and as you can see, it's for very high-budget clientele (Kim+ Kanye style). As before, these photographers are going to offer you superlative service with absolutely no room for error on anything. You're also going to receive high-quality imagery, likely with all of the perks previously mentioned. Truthfully we have very little experience with this 'luxury' category so we won't go on too much about it. As with any group, there are some extremely talented photographers operating in this price range, along with some photographers that have no business being here. Make sure that you do your homework to ensure you're not let down with your choice!
- There's a good chance that you've previously complained, or heard someone else going on about it. The infamous 'Wedding' price bump. How can all of these vendors get away with charging more for the exact same service, just because it's a wedding? Honestly, we know the feeling. We used to have the same thoughts years ago before we became full-time wedding photographers. Now, we can tell you the truth. It's quite simple really: You pay more for 'wedding' related services because they're way more work. Full stop. None of these vendors are looking to screw you over because you're getting married, they're simply thinking like a business and adjusting their prices to fit the work.
- For example, at Kendal + Kevin Photography we shoot weddings but we also cover some corporate events during our off-season. And yes, our pricing models are different and weddings are priced higher. So here's why: when hired for a corporate event, we will typically do some emailing, create an estimate and contract, show up to cover the event at the required times, import the raw photos to our computer, do some light editing and deliver the final collection of photos along with an invoice (gotta get that money!). Overall it takes around 5-15 hours of post-production work after the event. By comparison, for a typical wedding we will do some emailing with a client, meet with them face-to-face, send over a contract, email and prep for an engagement session, shoot, edit and deliver said engagement, meet face-to-face for a second meeting closer to the wedding day, scout locations, prep all of our equipment (charge batteries, clean lenses, format cards, sync cameras), shoot the wedding over 10+ hours at multiple locations giving it our absolute everything, get home and import the raw photos to our computer, triple backup the photos, cull from the 8,000 shots that we took, carefully curate, meticulously edit and deliver a final collection of photos. Then there's processing print orders, designing albums, blogging your wedding and the hard work of providing some bonuses for our clients along the way. BLAH BLAH BLAH, you get the point, there really is far more work involved in a wedding so a higher price is simply reflecting that.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY | Making sense of packages
- Hours of Coverage and what does it get you? You'll see photographers advertising stuff like half day coverage (4 hrs) or full day coverage typically starting at 8 hrs and going all the way to 12+ hrs. How do you know how much coverage is enough for your wedding? Here are our thoughts:
- 4 HRS | Ideally suited for an elopement or an intimate wedding. Generally, you're going to get coverage of a ceremony, a couples portrait session and maybe one other portion of the day (think getting-ready or family formals). If you're having a full day wedding this isn't the best fit and you're going to miss a good portion of the wedding.
- 8 HRS | This is where 'full day' coverage starts typically. You're going to have a majority of the day covered (with either the morning or late evening getting cut out). As long as your crew isn't a handful to direct and the photographer knows what their doing, you won't feel too rushed around and is a good option as long as you don't mind cutting out a few elements.
- 10 HRS | This is the most popular choice among our clients. You can expect coverage straight from getting ready photos in the morning, all the way to the dance + party in the evening. In-between typically involves covering things like a first look, the ceremony, family formals, the wedding party, the couples portraits and all aspects of the reception. With the added time, things are often a bit more natural + relaxed... opening the door to more location options for the mid-day photo sessions.
- 12+ HRS | This is for clients that want every part of their day covered with nothing cut short. The photographer(s) will arrive early in the morning and stay late at night. This allows for more comprehensive story telling and covers some of those magical late night moments. Seriously, ask a photographer to see some late night photos from a previous wedding and you might be convinced that you want this. Obviously this coverage means an additional cost so it's a give and take. Stick to what makes sense for you.
- What's the difference between 250, 500 + 1000 photos?
- You might look at 250 photos and think 'wow, that's plenty, I won't need anything more than this'. That's understandable, but 250 photos spread out over a full day doesn't go very far. The more photos that you include in your package, the more you're enabling your photographer to include those small yet important details from your day. And the more small details that are included, the stronger the story of your day becomes. As an example, we have set a minimum of 600 final photos for our full day weddings but truthfully, we will deliver as many as we feel are needed to tell the best story. Obviously as our coverage increases that will mean more photos.
Resources for Searching
Alright, now that you know your stuff, you can start looking around. Here are a few resources to consider:
Google + Websites
- An obvious start. Search something along the lines of "(your city) wedding photographer(s)" and click through the first couple pages of search results. Bookmark your early faves to revisit later on. Note - not every photographer invests their time in SEO rankings so there will be some awesome photographers hidden way down the list. Make sure to continue your search elsewhere.
- The next obvious stop (or first even) is social media. Photographers love social media as it's a great tool for us to connect with like-minded people. You can use it the same way when searching for a photographer. Most, if not all photographers have FB pages and Instagram accounts. Find a relevant hashtag in your area, (for Calgary #yycweddingphotographer or #yycweddings are good) and scroll through the masses. You can also search photos by area (try things like Lake Louise Wedding or wherever you're planning on getting married). Yes, there will be a lot of junk but certain accounts will catch your eye. Follow them. If you love their work, why not reach out and see if they're available for your wedding date?
Friends + Family
- You likely have some close friends and/or family members who have been recently married. Who was their photographer? Would they recommend them? Why or why not? Ask around because this feedback is golden. This is how we get the majority of our bookings at Kendal + Kevin Photography because a close referral instills more trust. After all, you want to trust your photographer and that personal connection means so much more than a website or social media account.
Blogs + Magazines
- There are plenty of gorgeous blogs and magazines dedicated to the wedding industry. The teams behind these publications do all of the leg-work to carefully curate content and choose vendors that are targeted towards specific audiences. Love the style of photos from a certain publication? Check to see if they have a vendor listing for your area. Even if they don't, you can always consider whether the photographer travels for weddings (there are many of us out there that do!).
Local Fairs + Tradeshows
- These tradeshows are purposefully designed for people planning their weddings and although we don't have a ton of experience with them, it's going to be a good place to meet a variety of vendors face-to-face and you can start to build that first impression. If you aren't intrigued after a brief meeting then you can likely continue your search elsewhere. Again, as with the google search, this will be a small sub-sample of photographers in your market so make sure to combine this with other avenues to make sure that you cover your bases.
Your Wedding Planner
- This is only a valid option if you have hired a Wedding Planner (of course), but let's assume you have. You can share your wedding vision with them and what you're looking for in a photographer and they can hand pick some options for you. You're the one who makes the final call but this is handy little benefit of having a planner by your side.
Chat to other vendors
- This is another great tip! It's hard enough to find a venue you love, but once you do- why not leverage your new connection and ask them if they have any photographers that they'd recommend. It's in their best interest to only recommend high-quality photographers they like and although you might not find your perfect match, it's worth trying!
Nice work! You've got a short list of 2-3 photographers. Here's how to go about choosing one.
- Check Online Reviews | Take 10-15 minutes and quickly have a peek at online reviews and testimonials. They will likely all be positive but you'll probably be able to find specific things that catch your eye. Maybe past clients keep complimenting the photographer(s) on something that is very important to you. This probably isn't a coincidence and is another point for that photographer.
- Request a meeting face-to-face | We firmly believe that this is a must. Many people don't realize it, but the people you're going to be seeing the most on your wedding day is your photographer(s). You obviously want to enjoy yourself on your wedding day so you need to make sure that you have chemistry with whoever you hire. We can't stress this enough. Make sure you like these people!
- Ask to see a full wedding at your meeting - Photographers are extremely picky over what we choose to show on our websites, blogs and on social media. You might be impressed with those 20 amazing photos, but what does a full wedding day of 700 shots look like? What sort of content do they include? How do they piece it together? What sort of story do they tell? These are all very important and can help you finalize your decision.
- Prep for the meeting by knowing what you want covered. Here's a list of the most popular events we cover during our full size weddings; Getting Ready, First Look, Ceremony + Details of the Venue, Family Formals, Wedding Party, Couple Portraits, Reception (Venue Details, Speeches + Games) and the Dance + Party. That is to give you a general idea but your wedding can be any combination of those or none at all. Make sure to plan the day that YOU want and don't get pressured into doing things because you feel you have to.
- Having an Elopement? Whatever your vision is for your day, know that the sky is the limit (corny but true). Make sure that you find someone who is willing to team up with you and help make it happen.
- Qualities to look for in your Photographer(s) | Stylistic Match. Personality. Professionalism. Trust. Passion (for their work and your wedding day).
Still reading? Awesome, we know it's long...but hopefully it has been helpful. Here are some final thoughts that we want you to consider:
When to Book? | Our advice is this - after you get engaged, stop and enjoy it for a while. Then when you're ready- confirm your date and venue, and next- go after your photographer! There's no hard rule but wedding photographers can only book one wedding per day (and there's only so many weekends in a year, even less when you think about the high volume wedding season). We typically book 1-2 years in advance to give you an idea.
Experience is good but sure isn't everything | Say you are gravitating towards a photographer who is established and is 'known' in your local market. You assume because they have been around forever that they are the most qualified to capture your wedding. Be careful with that. Ask yourself if you'd hire the same photographer(s) based on their work and your meeting with them alone. Don't put too much stock into years of experience and perception of quality. It doesn't always make sense, but some of the best photographers worldwide that have risen to the top in only a matter of years.
Delivery Timelines | How long do you want to wait to receive your photos? We have full respect for what is involved after the wedding so it's a legitimate thing when your photographer tells you that it's going to take 6 months to receive your final collection. There are many factors that determine varying delivery times; volume of bookings, style of editing; editing workflows, delivery methods and so on. We book a limited number of weddings so that we can feel confident in stating our delivery period is 4-6 weeks (and not a day more!).
Do you really need Prints and/or and Album? | YES! Digital photos are nice and convenient for sharing but hard prints and albums add so much more to your experience. You'll be so glad you have them as the months and years go by. If you still have your doubts, just ask your friends who have gone with albums and see what they have to say.
How are the Photos Delivered? | Do the photos get delivered via a USB, CD (old school), dropbox or an online gallery collection like Pixieset? (our personal fave)
Equipment and Backup Policies | Equipment matters… but only to a point. As long as the equipment can capture high-quality imagery, in a reliable manner, then you shouldn't give much thought to what your photographer is carrying in their bag. Camera bodies and lenses are a tool for the craft and it's how the photographer(s) use them. (I mean, You SHOULD be concerned if your $8500 photographer shows up with a point and shoot and nothing else but, you get the idea.) You should be concerned as to what their backup policies are however. Memory Cards and External Hard-drives do fail from time to time (no fault to the photographer) and you want to ensure that the photographer(s) have backups in place for when/if this happens.
What to watch for in Contracts:
Copyrights - Read this over carefully. Just what rights are you getting along with your photos? Sometimes photographers don’t grant any rights and you must purchase additional digital downloads and prints directly from them. Others are more open and include the digital imagery and rights to print elsewhere within their packages. Something to consider from the start.
Retainers - It's common practice for photographers to require a retainer or deposit payment upon booking your wedding date. It's common for us to receive multiple inquiries for the same day and we'll be forced to turn other clients away. This is a business safeguard put in place to protect against the unforeseen postponements and/or cancellations. Now you know.
Postponements or Cancellations - Speaking of which, what happens if you need to postpone your wedding day due to some unforseen event? Is this covered in your photographers contract? If not, make sure to have this conversation.
Engagement Sessions, are they worth it? | We always recommend having an engagement session. It's a great way to get to know your photographer(s) and feel confident on camera. Chances are, after your engagement session, you'll have zero nerves about your wedding photos and you can simply enjoy your day. You're also adding a significant keepsake to your story as a couple. Getting engaged is a beautiful moment in life and this is a chance to capture that time, and have some fun while doing it.
1 vs 2 Photographers? | Well, we're biased here. Even though we like to secretly boss each other around (oops!), we both realize that we couldn't do it without the other. There are some advantages of having two photographers - being able to split up with different groups through the day to expand our coverage, multiple angles of key scenes and two sets of eyes on everything. That said, there are very, very good photographers that shoot solo and come away with beautiful results so we definitely can't say it's an outright requirement.
Videographer? | This is another tough choice and you could probably apply a lot of the same things in this guide to choosing a Videographer. We love working alongside almost every Videographer that we've encountered and we think they create such beautiful content. If you're on the fence for one - go for it!
- Hiring outside of your local market? | This is more common than you think. A lot of photographers are fully available to travel for your wedding. Keep in mind that there are likely associated travel fees (although some offer discounts to amend for this), and sometimes there are complications working across borders (legally us Canadians have a tough time working jobs in the States and vice versa).
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY | Summary
Congrats, you made it! We hope that you're fully ready to find your perfect photographer(s). If you have any specific questions about your search, feel free to ask away. Or if you simply want to learn more about us at Kendal + Kevin Photography you can SAY HELLO. We would love to hear from you :)
Everything written in this guide is the opinion of Kendal + Kevin Photography and was written with the purpose of helping out all you newly engaged couples.