Things JUST got real! You’re about to meet with a wedding photographer, the person who will capture the memories of you and your tribe on your wedding day. Wedding photographers come in all personalities, shapes and sizes but some traits are of clear importance in a photographer. Other than being available, should they be personable (yes), fashionable (not necessarily, maybe a bit), agreeable (definitely), creative (a bit of a no-brainer), conscientious (have you seen those posts on the internet about awful wedding photos?)? The list of qualities is really endless but here, we’ve brought the myriad traits down to the top five things to look for in your wedding photographer.

1- Professionalism

What exactly does a professional wedding photographer look like? They have a dedicated studio space where you can sit, talk, see their work and what kind of photography and production equipment they have, and they demonstrate that they know how to use it. They have a website and/or a Facebook page. They have a standard contractual agreement that you will both sign that is very clear without a lot of legalese but with a guarantee that a photographer will be where you want, when you want them. They have samples of the albums you can choose from. They have stories to share about other weddings that help you generate ideas. They are on time for appointments, for your wedding and with your photos and they respect your style and budget. And they ALWAYS have a Plan B.  If they want to meet in a coffee shop and all you see is an iPhone camera and a photo book from Costco, you should probably move on.

2- Style

Every photographer has a different style. Some have a documentary style, some artistic, others traditional or editorial and then there are the classic photographers. Research wedding photography styles before going to meet with photographers and determine what style YOU prefer. Look at friends’ photos, Pinterest (but don’t say we didn’t warn you), websites, anything you can get your hands on but be sure to look at wedding photography. You should choose a photographer based on YOUR style, not on theirs, and you need to see consistent proof of that style. If you don’t have a meeting of minds, you’ll be disappointed with your photos. Things like creativity, spontaneity,vividness, and elegance are all hallmarks of photographic excellence (and of Mitch Lenet Weddings…we had to give ourselves some flowers!). But what makes a great photographer is a style that matches with yours.

If they don’t see themselves shooting in a traditional style and that’s what you’re looking for, they need to tell you. A photographer may be able to shoot in a couple of different styles but beware the photographer who says they do it all. To our knowledge, there’s only one Annie Leibovitz.

3- Interest and Communication

90% of communication is listening. We read that in a study somewhere. Your photographer should listen to you when you share your vision for your wedding, make eye contact with you, ask questions and hopefully make some notes along the way. They should ask about the details of your wedding day and should communicate with you as you need it (within reason…please…those 3 a.m. phone calls are just brutal!). Those communications must be timely (as in, you call on Thursday, they send an email to tell you they’re preparing for a wedding on Saturday and will call you on the phone on Tuesday).Your photographer wants to hear the story of how you met, they want to hear about the dress and the flowers and the cake. They will be as interested and excited for you as your parents and your Grandma. They will want to know who your other vendors are so they can align with them to work as a team…and you can relax and have fun!

4- Support and Reassurance

Never underestimate the power of reassurance! Support is so important on the day of your wedding. Professionalism and technical aspects not withstanding, a great wedding photographer goes above and beyond. If that means taking ten minutes to find a way to get your 3-year-old ring bearer to look in the right direction, they take ten minutes to make sure that 3-year-old ring bearer is looking in the right direction. If you forgot to tell them that you wanted the shot with the circle of sparklers, they get that shot, even if they have to run a little faster. If you tell them that you want a picture of your Mom putting on her pantyhose…well that may be stretching it (pun intended) but you get the idea. They work with everyone – bridal party, family, guests and vendors – to give you the photography experience you expected and keep you reassured along the way. They are your extra maid of honour or your extra best man who do everything in their power to make whatever you need in photography to happen. (And you don’t have to buy them a wedding party gift!)

5- Honesty and Integrity

When it comes to value for money, there are no excuses. You must be able to rely on your photographer to meet their deadlines and commitments. Everyone experiences unavoidable delays from time to time but do you really want to be one of those wedding horror stories about how the photographer showed up at 3:00 for a 2:00 wedding? Or do you want to endure six months and multiple excuses and STILL not have your photos, much less your album? No. Your memories are sacred and those memories should be guaranteed with honesty. Your photographer should be on time, on budget, honest and realistic about turnaround times for previews, edited proofs and any products you purchase after the wedding.

Wedding photography is a unique discipline. It doesn’t use the same techniques and approaches as pregnancy photography or commercial photography. It’s a specialty, one that is fraught with emotions and expectations that can go the wrong direction with a hasty decision. So make sure your photographer is the right one for you! Just in case your wondering what a really great portfolio should look like here’s a few samples of one!