There are a lot of reasons why you choose a photographer. You love love her work, his portfolio makes you weep with joy, she’s available on your wedding day, his price is just right.
There’s one thing so many people don’t consider, or if they do consider it, it’s very last on the priority list:
The relationship with the actual human that will be taking your photos.
Why is this so important, or, as I claim, essential? If the photographer is good, they should be able to produce images you love and shabam alakazam it’s all peaches and glitter.
That may be true, and if images are all you want then you might, just might be able to skate by with this mentality.
Wait, you’re thinking, don’t I hire a photographer to, er, give me images? What else…is there?
Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time I was engaged, and I was looking for a photographer. My engagement was short, and I knew my day was going to be a popular day to get married, so I needed to get my bum in gear and git me a photog fast. All the photographers I looooved and had been following for years were totally and completely out of my price range. So I started from scratch, google page after google page, ridiculous listing site after ridiculous listing site. After days and weeks of searching, I was freaking out. I knew photography was the most important thing to me about my wedding day, but I couldn’t seem to find someone who fit my style and my budget.
After sadly returned emails with a few photographers who were already booked on my day, I found one I thought just might work…I mean, I loved her photos. Kind of. Except for some of them. Except for this one particular edit that made me want to throw up a little. Except for smatterings of graffiti walls and a couple cheesy poses. But other than that…it was perfect. What was I expecting? I figured this was the best I could get.
And then we met.
And there was nothing there.
No chemistry or connection.
And I still hated some of her photos, and still others just made me yawn.
But, I thought, what was I expecting? That we’d embrace like long lost soulmates and she’d invite me over for a hair-braiding party and a sleepover? That she’d show me a gleaming portfolio of all my secret wishes bottled into photographs? That she’d promise me I’d feel like a goddess of love and beauty on my wedding day and have the pictures to prove it?
Well, yeah–I was secretly hoping for that a little bit. But I quickly learned that those things weren’t an option. This was probably just the way all photographers did it, I told myself. They’re supposed to be professional. I convinced myself I was being too picky (really? love all her photos?) and talked myself into hiring her.
Through the course of our interactions, she did some things I didn’t like and still think are unprofessional, but it all boiled down to this vibe I got from her that she didn’t like me, personally, and that I was her nightmare bride. As a result, I was so self-conscious that I couldn’t focus on loving my man in our photos like I wanted to–add a pile of other things that went wrong between us and it was the perfect storm of awfulness.
I’m not blaming her entirely. Really I’m not–because I was the one who talked myself into hiring her, thinking if I just said and did the right things I could avoid getting pictures like the ones I hated and she would produce only the kind I loved. I was the one who was stupid (mostly just uninformed) enough to think I could contrive her style, even though it was close to mine, to fit all the way. Like that sweater that’s cute and on sale but just fits wrong or the boy who pulls out all the romantic stops but is never around when you need him, we were destined for heartbreak from the start.
We broke up.
I was so grateful and relieved when she suggested we tear up the wedding contract, pay for the engagements and call it good.
After starting the search again, I found Ashlee Raubach.
We came to her house for a consultation and there she was, with her freakin adorable white blond pixie cut and her bright lipstick and her bubbly personality. I might have had a little woman crush on her–and I knew I had to have her. With her work, it was love at first sight–clean lines, beautiful colors, and she’s inspired by j.crew? Could we be any more perfect for each other? My little heart wanted to burst.
We gabbed about every little detail of my wedding for hours. She made me feel like I was the only person in the world. She loved my choices for everything (“Neutrals, so refreshing!” “No garter toss? Thank heavens!” “Oh, dahlias and hydrangeas will be beautiful”) and I knew her excitement and support was genuine.
And the magic, the absolute magic, was because I trusted her.
I loved every single photo on her website. But, loving every photo on her site was not enough–I loved her. I felt like we were wonderful friends, that she cared about making my day gorgeous and breathtaking, and: I loved having her there on my wedding day, as a guest. Best of all, I didn’t waste any time worrying whether she liked me or not.
Because of those two things, on my wedding day, I was able to totally forget about Ashlee and be myself with my brand new husband, just madly in love and deliriously happy.
The moral of the story is this:
1. If you don’t like even one element of someone’s work, don’t book.
That one too-contrasty sepia you really don’t want? Sure, you could ask your photographer not to edit your photos that way. But if there’s one thing you hate, chances are it’s a symptom of a greater syndrome: your styles don’t match. And if your styles don’t match, you might fall into the trap of trying to covertly coerce your photographer–and once you start fighting that battle, nobody wins. See above saga for details.
2. If you don’t connect with your photographer as a person, don’t book.
Your photographer will be a guest at your wedding. She’ll be there in some of the most intimate and important moments of your life. Don’t spoil those moments by hiring someone you don’t jive with. I’m not saying sleepovers are a must, but really: there’s gotta be chemistry. Which leads to the most important moral of this very long story:
3. Hire someone you trust.
When you trust your photographer to capture you and your memories in a way that you will love, you can quit shouldering the burden of trying to babysit and just enjoy yourself. Does his or her work take your breath away? Does it speak to you, elicit an emotional response? Does his or her work make your heart want to clap its hands because it’s found someone who gets it?
Go with your gut reaction. A lot of the reasons why I didn’t feel so hot about my first photographer I couldn’t articulate at the time, so trust yourself.
I have to just say, too, that if you do things this way it’s not just you who will be happy. Photographers don’t want to work with clients who don’t like them any more than you want to work with a photographer you don’t like, so there. Be picky. Go ahead. Find someone you love.
Well hey, I happen to be a photographer. Brooke Schultz is my name, Utah County weddings (and worldwide weddings!) (okay, all weddings) are my game. Let’s find out if we’re a good match! Set up a complimentary consultation to chat it up with yours truly and see if you’re feelin’ it.
(sleepover and hair-braiding sold separately.)