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3 Step System for Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

Every delighted couple I've ever spoken to has always said it was all about the photos for them. Couples who felt indifferent, or worse, about their photos after their wedding, always seemed to have compromised on this one point.
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You're about to look for your photographer. To prepare yourself, people gave you questions to ask, on top of which you've made a list from wedding blogs. You're ready to take copious notes, do due diligence, compare, and all the while you're thinking:

Can't This Be Done Simpler?

It actually can. I'm a wedding photographer and frankly, when I've interviewed photographers, I've never asked the questions you see in bridal magazines.

The reason's simple. Those questions don't give me what I really need to know.

When I got married some years back, we needed to find a photographer in a different state where I didn't know any. We went about choosing our photographer using three simple steps.

If you follow these same steps in sequence, you're going to have an easier time with less legwork. Plus you'll find the photographer that fits you best.

Here's why: I bottom-lined the selection process to its three most important priorities guaranteed to give me the best outcome. Then I set those priorities in their proper order.

They don't teach you this stuff in magazines. So let me show you what we did.

Top Priority: The Photographer's Portfolio.

Many couples place this at a lower priority. That's a mistake. They compromise their photos by getting someone who's only "good enough." Which is another way of saying, "they're merely adequate." But I'm saying you have to love the work. So much so that if the portfolio you're looking at were your wedding photos, you'd be beyond thrilled.

Every delighted couple I've ever spoken to has always said it was all about the photos for them. Couples who felt indifferent, or worse, about their photos after their wedding, always seemed to have compromised on this one point.

They compromised for all sorts of reasons. It could be budget considerations. Or the photographer's personality trumped their work and won them over. Or maybe the photographer was chosen primarily because he or she was recommended by a friend, relative or the venue. Or gave a "good deal."

But here's the reason why loving the portfolio is the top priority:

The photography's going to be the thing you end up with.

I reasoned that after the wedding we won't care what we paid except to either view it as money wasted if we weren't thrilled or money well spent if we were. But we're sure going to be looking at the photos. And for a long time. They'd better be more than great so that we're thrilled.

I'm not saying we disregarded our budget or that you should disregard yours. Obviously if it's way out of your budget you're not going to book that photographer. But I know that if we started our search by only looking based on a budget number, we would be excluding ourselves from seeing probably better photographers that may turn out to be only be a few dollars difference more. Dollars that we could easily reassign from another part of the budget that's not so much of a priority.

And if all we need to do is amend the wedding budget then our total wedding budget wouldn't change -- only the parts of it allocated to photography. So it made sense to keep an open mind but see only photographers whose work we'd be thrilled with if they were our photos.

The added benefit is we got a better sense of what kind of budget we'd realistically need for the caliber of photographer we truly wanted, instead of hoping for a price or guessing at a price or running around town trying to find a price that fit a predetermined number.

Once we had that list my next priority was to meet them and see if we all felt a good connection. Because there needs to be good rapport.

This is another area that people mis-prioritize. They end up with a photographer that may fit their budget, whose photos seem good -- but the photographer mars the experience with their presence, sad to say. And that forever taints the wedding photos because it's difficult to separate the memory of the photo with a bad memory of the photographer who took it. After the wedding, pricing is no longer an issue but a lingering bad experience can continue to be an issue.

That can easily be avoided by making rapport a higher priority over budget. Which is why I placed it second in my priority order.

Or they over-prioritize the photographer's personality over best photo quality. But again, after the wedding, I'm not looking for the photographer's personality when I look at the photos. Make no mistake. I want the personality to have been pleasurable, but I want the photos to be better.

So if you've found a portfolio you love from a photographer who you connect with, now is when you narrow that list to where you're comfortable with the budget.

I save price for last priority and here's the big reason why: You can't change the photographer's talent, skills, expertise, and all that goes into the photos. You can't change looking at your photos and saying "this seems okay" to "wow, this looks amazing!" You can't change the photographer's character and people skills from poor to excellent.

But you can change the budget. You probably can also have the photographer customize their offerings to better fit a price you can afford.

Fact is if you get the first two priorities right but don't exactly get the price you want, odds are you're still probably way better off and will be happier with the results than couples who get the price right - but not so the first two priorities.

It's that simple. Find a portfolio you love. Make sure you're comfortable with the photographer. Nail the price. All the other questions you may have, like album choices, do they bring an assistant, turnaround times... aren't as imperative as these three in making sure you're thrilled with the photos after your wedding.