Weddings are consuming in research, planning and moolah! It’s known as one of the happiest and most important days of your life and I may be biased… as I AM a wedding photographer- but when you think about it, you and your generations to come will be flipping through these photos of you and your family. A legacy, if you will. So to most, choosing the right person for the job is paramount. You need to know your photographer. What a lot of people DON’T realize is that your photographer needs to know YOU… and your soon-to-be spouse, family and what makes all of the above the special snowflake of a family tree that you are. They do also need to know their photog stuff and together with both expertise in their craft, knowing you and what you’re looking for on a deeper level, creates a perfect package of “non-buyer’s remorse post wedding pics bliss.” (Catching you at your best angles is a plus too- let them know ahead of time which ones they are- wink face.)

The hunt for the perfect photographer can also be SUPER overwhelming. As you filter through and learn what to search for; well exposed, in-focus, sharp professional work — said in my stuffy nagging narrative voice. But really, besides all of that and matching your general style preference; whether it be light and airy, dark and moody, portraiture, photojournalistic… which ever your preference- Here’s the deal: you MUST remember to personally connect with not just the “professional” but the person/personality behind that lens that will be following you around capturing your most intimate, “once in a lifetime” moments of the wedding day. I am going to say this: your wedding photographer is the one and ONLY vender that will be with you all day long!

Our relationship starts before the wedding day. A good photographer will have a face-to-face meeting with their clients prior to the big day or at the very least, a long-winded convo over the phone so we are all dancing to the same hoedown. Then we are there before the coffee kicks in, before the make-up has started, we are there as you transform into the gorgeous bride or groom that you were destined to be. We are there before you have ANY bridal attire on and in a lot cases, we are right there next to you, capturing the first moments as you step into your dress or button up that suit vest. Right amongst the people that mean the most to you in this lifetime, is ME your photographer. So, if you haven’t caught my drift yet, you have to think I’m kinda cool before you invite me to be a part of it all, just sayin’.

Would you like a photographer that dances around in the shadows and blends in with the wallpaper? Or would you like your photographer to have gotten to know you well enough where at the first sight of stress, he/she has a glass of champagne in hand to offer!? There are many different professionals and many different personalities!

I have a SOLID piece of advice that I have found as imperative in my almost 7 years as a photographer myself! HAVE AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION! This is not something to overlook. Not only is probably the first time, (in most cases) your photographer will have you in front of the lens, but this is the time to learn what to expect on your wedding day as far as posing, you will learn how the photographer works and flows. This is a chance for the professional to get to know you as a couple and figure out what situations you are most comfortable! Wouldn’t you want to know prior to your wedding day if you are going to be asked to be standing in tall grass? Get a little adventurous? Maybe that’s not your cup of tea? That would have been helpful to know before hand, yes? What if you are the incredibly adventurous bride… but the photographer wants to keep you on the pavement? Do you like to be silly when you’re nervous or more serious? We will pick up on this energy so we are prepared on all levels for your special day.

The relationship with your photographer is not just business… its personal!

Let’s get down to business, (rubbing hands together) I have put together 5 qualities that every professional wedding photographer should be expected to have and then we will go over how those qualities need to gel with your personality and what your comfort level and expectations are:

1. A strong attention to detail

A good photographer must have an eye for every single detail to be sure that all elements within the photo, the composition, the lighting and everything else in between—work together harmoniously to convey the right vision or message.

The key elements that make up a photo: lighting, composition, emotion, storytelling.

You have spent anywhere from a year to your whole entire life planning this day, be sure that you hire a professional that makes these details a priority, as if it was their own wedding day.

2. Personality and social intelligence

Being a professional photographer means working with people—whether it is you the couple, your family, or the other venders. Having said this, being a good photographer requires strong people skills. When a photographer is capturing portraits especially, knowing how to take a good photo just isn’t enough. Knowing how to interact with your wedding party, family and friends to make them feel comfortable. Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera! It is the job of your photographer to take this into account and step in to help if we notice “Aunt Mary” has no clue where to place her hands or perhaps there is family dynamic of some sort putting a person on edge. This is another piece of the puzzle we as photographers want and need to know so while setting poses to ensure everyone is comfortable, happy and enjoying this celebration- we are capturing all of the positive emotions we love to see in wedding photos.

3. Creativity

Photography, no matter what the style, is a form of art. Therefore, it requires a creative mind. Not every venue is going to have the picturesque magazine worthy, breathtaking to the eye acreage that we see all over Pinterest. At times you will have to put full trust and faith in your photographer to create magic in a location that well… may not look like a story tale to the naked eye. With a creative experienced photographer, you will be surprised what magic can happen, in the back of a church parking lot even!! Composition is EVERYTHING.

4. Patience level and flexibility

My dear bride or groom, I know you have every last detail planned. You have your timeline, shoot lists and everyone of importance you wish to capture throughout the day. We want your day to flow and stick to your timeline, but let’s be real, many things can affect your plans; IE weather issues, crying toddlers, uncooperative family members, a truck that is transporting all the groomsmen randomly catches on fire, (yes that has happened on my watch). We all need to be patient and bend with the wind in these instances. If “Aunt Mary” is spending too much time refilling her chardonnay at the bar, your photographer may just have to pull her aside and capture you and her during the reception (hopefully before the 3rd glass).

Children, do you have a lot of littles in your party? If so, does your photographer work well with these tiny, sometimes temperamental people? The worst thing you can do is put pressure on a child who is already overwhelmed on a wedding day. Your photographer needs to know that he/she needs to get these portraits done first so that they can go relax, play, and dance! Boy, can they DANCE!

5. Love, Passion, and dedication for what they do.

I saved this for number 5 because THIS, this is huge!! You want an experienced wedding photographer, but you do not want someone who just shows up to press buttons, right? Maybe you do and who am I to judge? However, this is YOUR wedding day. One of the most important and memorable days of your life! Don’t you want your photographer to be just as excited as you are!? I am getting excited just writing this by the way!

You want your photographer to take the time and research the venue, scout out the best spots for family photos so that your family and wedding party are not waiting around for a word on where to go next. You want your photographer to get just as emotionally invested in how beautiful you look as you are! If things are not perfect, you want a photographer that does not stop until there is perfection on that screen! Do you have a good side? Remember I mentioned your best angle? We all have one. Tell your photographer and if they love what they do and are fully invested in making you happy, they will know this and take note to it!

Reception, time to dance, you want your photographer loving this party as much as everyone else –sans drink in hand. We can’t get those epic dance shots standing on the side lines of the dance floor!! You will want a photographer to love their job and get right in there!! We may get hip bumped or stepped on, sometimes a drink splashed on our clothes but as long as we get the shot, that’s what matters! At the end of the day, you have spent your entire engagement working with your photographer and you can make it much more enjoyable choosing someone that not only WANTS to be there but wants to be there with the two of YOU!

Wedding photography is technical, analytical, and an art! You want to be sure you are being captured with the best gear, in the best light, but if you can’t feel comfortable and work together- enjoyably, it’s going to be a long day for so many reasons. Love your wedding photographer. We love what we do and want you to love us in return! We spend late nights thinking of your wedding day and then many nights after the fact editing! Let’s all be friends, it’s our goal to make this relationship stand the test of time just like your new marriage! XO

Kassandra Lee Russell of Granite Stag Photography