Photo by Shane Godfrey

Photo by Shane Godfrey

Technology has changed. The importance of preserving special moments has not. If you’re considering not hiring a photographer for your next event, think again.  Though everyone packs cameras, photographers know best how and when to use them. Planning an event can take a tremendous amount of time, and if you want to remember the special occasion, a professional photographer can capture those memories.

In Boston, as in most major cities, there are several notable photographers.  It’s convenient that there are options.  However, choosing the best photographer for an event may seem daunting.  What’s the best way to begin?  When photographers are contacted, what do they need to know?  What questions should be asked?

I’ve met with several impressive local photographers.  Each has an artistic style, structure for planning, shooting, and choosing photographs; and unique personality.  Each has their own pricing and package options.  As a planner, I act as a “matchmaker” between the photographer and client.  I suggest the photographer(s) who best fit the client’s interests.

For those who do not have the benefit of an event planner, here’s an easy solution.

Shane Godfrey, of Shane Godfrey Photography, is one of Boston’s most talented photographers.  To get a photographer’s perspective on hiring a photographer, I sat down with Shane and asked Shane about the best way to land a photographer who is a “good match.”

Debbie Good Miller, Good Celebrations, LLC: Initially researching photography options may seem overwhelming.  The obvious places to begin looking are friends’ recommendations and search engine reviews.  However, each person’s event, photography needs, budget, and personal style varies.  What are your thoughts about zeroing in on the photographer who will be the right fit?

Shane Godfrey:  The first place to look is often other friends’ weddings. If you are in a wedding party and you really enjoyed working with the hired photographer, do not hesitate to strike up a conversation with them and get their contact information so you can follow up after the wedding. I can’t tell you how many weddings I get every year who are former bridesmaids or groomsmen that I have photographed at past weddings. Even if you are a guest at a friend’s wedding and you like what you see from their demeanor, personality, etcetera, get their contact info and ask your friend about their experience.

Looking on blogs is also a very popular way of finding a photographer to fit your venue and style. If you’re getting married at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Google search “Wedding Photography Royal Sonesta Cambridge” and browse through a few pages of photographers who have blogged photos from that venue. Also, sites such as Style Me Pretty and Green Wedding Shoes have a list of photographers whose work they have featured, and the editors of those blogs typically have a great eye for quality image making. You can always ask the venue you have chosen for a list of recommended photographers as well. Often they have built relationships with vendors that they feel comfortable with and have worked with before.

Checking sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot for reviews is also extremely helpful. You can feel pretty good about hiring a photographer who has 40 or so five star reviews with lengthy positive responses.

Lastly, you need to stay within your budget. Nothing frustrates me more than sitting down with a client who is trying to talk me down from the get go. If a photographer’s prices are over what you have set aside for photography, try to find another photographer that is in your price range. No self-respecting wedding photographer is going to give you a break because you don’t have the money; there are just too many clients out there willing to pay.

Debbie Good Miller:  Those are all important considerations.

So, after initial research, the potential client contacts the photographer.  I assume you need to know the:

What other information is necessary?

Shane Godfrey:  That about sums it up for an initial email.  Afterward I will send over my price list and my availability for your wedding day.  If I am not available I will send you to another wedding photographer who I know is available for your wedding day and would be a good fit price and style wise.  If I am available, then we figure out a time to meet, talk on the phone, or Skype if you are from out of town, and go from there.

Debbie Good Miller:  That’s a great service that you suggest other photographers if you’re already hired on the date of someone’s event.

When you have the conversation with potential clients, here are the questions that I think are important to ask photographers:

1. What is your style and/or how do you approach wedding photography.

2. Do you have a background in photography? BFA, Associates degree, weekend warrior?

3. Can I see a completed wedding?

4. Do you work with a second photographer, assistant, or intern?

5. Do you keep up with modern equipment?

6. Do you have liability insurance?

7. Will I have unlimited print license of the photos that you take of the event? Is there a watermark?

8. Do you have photo sharing technologies for customers and guests?

9. What is your turn around time for the final product?

10. How many images do you take at a wedding (roughly)?

11. What exactly will I get for the price?  Is this information in the contract?  What other information is included in the contract, and what is the payment plan?

12. What is the best way to work with you the day of the event to be sure that the photos that are important are made?

13. How do you like to schedule posed photos in the event plan?

14. Have you worked at or are you familiar with our venue?

After discussing these topics, what are your next steps?  How does each party access if their interests and personalities mesh?

Shane GodfreyAt our first meeting or during our first phone call I can usually get a good sense of whether or not my style and personality will mesh with a potential client, and vice-versa.  I am an extremely low stress photographer and not into a lot of the cheesiness that comes with the industry.   I find my clients are similar to me in a lot of ways, and when I run into a high-stress bride or someone who is not interested in my photographs because everything is not posed, I can tell it will not be a good fit.  If you are looking for more of a fashion or traditional approach to wedding photography, I am not your guy, but that does not mean someone else may not be, so don’t get discouraged!

Debbie Good Miller:  That’s good to know – getting the clients’ expectations established in advance.  When the job’s over, how do you know when you’ve hit the “sweet spot” and provided the client with a photo story that they treasure?

Shane Godfrey Most of my clients really let me into their family and friend group, and I try to fit in the best that I can to make everyone feel comfortable in front of the camera. Most people do not like to be photographed, but that is usually because the person behind the camera, not a professional photographer, does not know what they are doing.

Bringing a true professional in with a photo journalist’s sensibility can really lead to a fantastic set of images that tell a beautiful story of a wedding day.  I’m always confident that I will come out with a product that my clients will love and cherish forever.  I’ve been photographing weddings for almost a decade and have worked on several different jobs over the years to further my skills, along with having a BFA in photography.

Debbie Good Miller:  I think everyone strives to find a photographer with your expertise and reassurance.  Finding the right photographer – a possibly time consuming, stressful ordeal – can actually be easy and enjoyable.  Shane, thanks so much for your helpful suggestions, candid remarks, and professional perspective.  Your influence will help folks find the best possible photographer for their event, date, and budget.  Hosting a Celebration just got easier.

Life is short.  Celebrate!

For more event planning tips sign up for the Good Celebrations, LLC Newsletter.