The internet is great for a lot of things: staying up-to-date on current news and trends, sharing pictures of your recent vacation with friends and family and, of course, finding crazy cat videos to help pass the time at work.
For all of the good it does, it can also be a bit of information overload. Here's an example. My wife and I had our first child back in December. I'm an internet research kinda guy myself, so when we found out she was pregnant I instantly jumped on Google to start preparing for the long, and completely unknown, road ahead. I started out by doing a simple search for "pregnancy guide" and whoa baby... there were 221,000,000 results. Yikes.
The same thing can happen when using the internet to help plan a wedding. Doing a search for "tips to plan a wedding" will "only" give you just over 88 million results. The majority of people planning their wedding have not done it before, so it can be a pretty daunting and overwhelming task. This is why it's important to talk to people you know and trust who have been through the process as they can be a tremendous resource for pointing you in the right direction on where to start.
This is where I come in. While I won't pretend to be an expert in all phases of wedding planning, there is one area I'm pretty well-versed in: wedding photography (duh). The decision you make on who to hire for your wedding photography is one of the most important decisions you'll make in the entire process. Because of that I wanted to offer some quick (yet very important) tips on finding the perfect wedding photographer for you:
1. Don't procrastinate - Good wedding photographers, like venues, are usually booked far out in advance. If your wedding date is any less than a year away then it's time to get moving on finding a photographer. This is especially true if your wedding is during the peak summer/fall months (for Southern California, anyway). It's a pretty big bummer to find a photographer who's style you love and price matches your budget only to find out they're booked for your date.
2. Decide on your wedding photography style - This means two things: the style/theme of your wedding (is it modern? traditional? country chic? vintage?) and the style of the photography itself. In terms of photography style, you have some photographers who are more formal and do a lot of posed shots (traditional), some who are more of a fly-on-the-wall and who you hardly notice are there (photojournalism), some who combine both traditional for the group/family portraits and photojournalism for pretty much everything else (contemporary) and then some whose photos are highly stylized, with use of Photoshop effects such as selective colorization, lots of black&white, etc. (artistic). Now, most good wedding photographers have some of all those styles present in their shooting style, but you'll usually find photographers will be stronger in one direction and their work will reflect that.
3. Determine your wedding photography "must have's" - How important is an album to you? Do you want all of your photos available in high-resolution? Are prints important? How about an engagement session? Once you know what you're looking for it will be easier to compare offerings from different photographers.
4. Determine your budget - A general rule of thumb in the industry is that wedding photography will be about 12% of your overall wedding budget. It's important to decide how much you can realistically spend before shopping for photographers. You don't want to fall in love with someone's work and decide you really want them only to find out they cost three times what you've budgeted for.
5. Narrow down your list to three or four photographers - Once you've checked out the photographers' websites, seen some of their work and read some testimonials/reviews it's time to narrow the list down and start making phone calls. Talking to potential photographers on the phone will help you get a sense of their personality and whether or not there seems to be some initial chemistry. Sort of like a phone interview for a job.
6. Meet your potential wedding photographer in person - One of the most important things you can do when finding a wedding photographer is to meet them in person. Why? Because this is where you'll truly get a sense of whether or not you could hang out with this person for eight hours on the most important day of your life. They may have taken the most amazing wedding photos you've ever seen, but if having a conversation with them is about as much fun as sticking hot pokers in your eye then you might want to pass.
7. Be decisive - Once you've met with the photographers you're most interested in, try to make a decision as quickly as possible. It's not fun when you fall in love with a photographer but, for whatever reason, it takes you three weeks to let them know you want to book them only to find out someone else booked your date while you were waiting. Like with other wedding vendors, photographers can (usually) only do one wedding a day, so when your date's booked it's booked. That's why as soon as you feel like you've found the perfect photographer let them know, ask them to hold the date and get the contract to them asap. Then you can just sit back and relax knowing one of the most important parts of your wedding day is all wrapped up!