After selecting a date and a venue, the next item on every bride’s to do list is select a photographer. In today’s blog post, I will take you step-by-step and reveal how to find a San Antonio wedding photographer. From selecting a style of photography to the nitty gritty of the contract, find out everything you need to know to get great photos after walking down the aisle.
How To Find a San Antonio Wedding Photographer – Start with Style
As with all of your wedding vendors, you need to start the wedding photography selection process by deciding what style suits you as a couple. Wedding photographers come in all sorts of flavors, but in general, you have four main styles: editorial, traditional, modern, and photojournalistic.
Do you pour through the pages of Vogue and want to look like a high-society goddess in your wedding gown? Then go for an editorial-style photographer. These photographers are generally more expensive because getting the shot normally requires more assistants and lighting. The focus is not on the off-the-cuff moments, but instead on the portrait session itself.
Traditional wedding photography is going to focus on a 50-50 mix of portraits and spontaneous moments. You’ll have a lovely wedding portrait and of course, plenty of family portraits to choose from at the end of the day.
Modern wedding photography – as with traditional photography – is more defined by the feel you get from looking at the photos. Do you want photos that are basically an update from the photos your parents took on their wedding day? Then go to the traditional route. If you want an artsy look with more non-traditional poses during your portrait session, then go with a more modern style.
Finally, if you want to focus on the action during your wedding day, a photojournalistic wedding photographer is your best bet. This is my personal style as a wedding photographer. In short, I center my attention on what is happening in front of my camera rather than trying to make the action happen. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible so that moments happen naturally. While portrait sessions are certainly part of a photojournalistic wedding day, the idea is that stiff and formal –hold your flowers at right angles – shots are passed over in favor of hugs and real emotion. It’s not so much a style as an ethos that emphasizes action and realness.
How To Find a San Antonio Wedding Photographer – Start the Online Search
Word-of-mouth recommendations should always be the first step in your search for a wedding photographer. Hearing from people you know and trust about their experience with particular vendors should definitely count higher than any online review.
Your next best friend in your search for a wedding photographer should be Google. I recommend that once you have a style selected, try incorporating your style and location into a Google search. For instance, type in ‘documentary-style San Antonio photographers’ and then go through the list of names that Google provides. Bear in mind that Google is not a perfect search engine since you vendors can pay to be at the top of the list. As such, make sure you take a wide view of businesses listed on at least the first two pages of results.
You might also look online at the giant wedding vendor databases: The Knot, Wedding Wire, Zola, and Carats and Cake. However, I would caution anyone if you think the list of available photographers begins and ends on these sites. The Knot has recently ended all free listings on their site, and as I can attest, their advertising costs are hideously expensive. Indeed, many photographers are no longer advertising on these sites due to The Knot and Wedding Wire’s advertising policies (check out this article from Inc.). So, if a photographer is not listed on these sites, this should not be taken as a strike against the photographer.
Finally, do a Reddit search for your city and see if anyone has already started compiling a list of recommended wedding photographers.
How To Find a San Antonio Wedding Photographer – Location, Location, Location
Does your wedding photographer’s location matter? Unless you plan on flying in a particular photographer, then I would start with someone who is based in your general location. If nothing else, you want your photographer to understand the rigors of Texas heat. But that said, remember that all of us wedding photographers travel for work. While I am located in downtown San Antonio, I would travel as far as Austin for a wedding. When I lived in New York I was based in Queens, but half of my business was in Brooklyn. In other words, make sure you broaden your search to include wedding photographers city-wide.
If you are worried about finding a wedding photographer who is familiar with your particular venue, then you can always ask the venue for a list of recommended vendors. But again, don’t feel tied to this list. Note that some venues ask for a kick back to be included on a list of favorites. What matters is not if your wedding photographer has been to your venue before, but if your wedding photographer is willing to go the extra mile and make a venue check on your behalf.
I always make a visit to my venues ahead of any major photo shoot. My venue checks are made at least two weeks prior to any event and at around the same time of day that any portraits will be taken. My goal with these visits is to approximate what the lighting will be like on the day of the event. During the venue check I search for any ‘hidden’ photo opportunities (staircases, alleyways, cool details, etc.) and meet with the venue manager so that we are on the same page.
Narrowing Down the List
Once you have a handful of favorite wedding photographers selected, your next step is to narrow down your list by looking at reviews. Any photographer can have one subpar review, but you want to look at the entire set of reviews to note any trends. These can include a lack of attention to detail or slow response rates. Make sure you check out all reviews for a given photographer across social media: Google, the Knot, Wedding Wire, Facebook, and even Yelp.
I would also take into consideration the number of years a photographer has been in business. An experienced photographer has seen it all and can handle anything that happens on your wedding day. You need a professional who can guarantee you good photos even if it rains and the ceremony is an hour late. (Spoiler alert, I have been in business for 14 years.)
Before You Sign the Contract
Ask to see a full portfolio of images sent to an actual client. Any photographer can put together a good 20 photos or so. Rather, you want to see what was delivered to a real client. Though you are never going to like 100% of the photos you see, you should like at least 80%. These photos should be in the style that you want, and should capture all of the story elements that are important to you. Furthermore, your photographer should take due diligence in editing and make sure that each photo is a quality image.
If you have specific questions, then by all means ask for references. Reaching out to previous clients – particularly if the client has the same style and size of wedding as yours – is a great way to understand what it is like to work with a photographer.
Insurance is a minimum requirement. All professional photographers should have general liability and equipment insurance. Photographers who do not carry insurance are generally not full-time professional photographers and are trying to save money where they can. Most venues will require a certificate of insurance for any vendor. I would ask this question up front in your selection process to make sure your time is not being wasted.
“Meeting” in person is still important. You are going to be with your photographer for your entire wedding day. As such, it is important that you like each other and that you feel relaxed in the photographer’s presence. And while my previous advice was to meet in person, I think a Zoom call or FaceTime works just as well. Everyone is busy, but you want to make sure that you have good chemistry. On your wedding day, your photographer is going to be your eyes for the day, so make sure you have the same vision for your event.
Clarify your print release rules. The bottom line is that you want to walk away from your wedding with beautiful images in hand. The question, however, is if you will be able to print the photos you receive. Photographers tend to release images to clients in two different ways. Either a photographer works on a time basis, and all reasonable photos taken during that time are edited and delivered to the client. Or, a photographer takes a more ‘nickel-and-dime’ approach and edits only a specific number of photos for the client.
Personally, I take the time-basis approach with my clients. My contracts are based on a specific amount of time, and I release all edited photos to a client for their personal use with no watermarks. Clients can create prints and albums on their own with no further obligation from me. The latter approach is much more profitable, but it normally ends with more frustration on the part of the client. Make sure that your contract specifically states approximately how many photos you will receive and how many of these images you can print on your own. Otherwise, you will be eternally tied to the photographer and have to pay for each photo you want printed.
Find out how your photos will be used after your wedding. Privacy has become a big issue with clients. Everyone uses social media, but not everyone wants to have their wedding photographer display their private moments. I have personally addressed the issue by adding a privacy fee to my contract. If a client wishes to be entirely private, then there is an additional 25% fee for this exclusivity. Unfortunately, photographers are only as good as their last shoot, and I need new photos for future publicity of my small business. If a photographer’s contract does not state where your images will be displayed, then you need to ask. By not having any mention of privacy or publication in a contract, then you can bet that your photos will be displayed as widely as possible by the photographer.
Clarify image delivery size and format. Make sure you know the size of the images you will be receiving. If you are planning to do a billboard in Times Square, then you are going to need much larger sized images than is normally delivered. Accordingly, your contract should state clearly the size and quality of the images you will be receiving. This way, you know you won’t be receiving just a set of thumbnails from your wedding that can never be printed in a larger size format.
So there you have it: how to find a San Antonio wedding photographer from initial search to contract signature. Enjoy the images accompanying this article from my many years of happy moments, and I will have more photo adventures for you next week!
Are you looking for a San Antonio wedding photographer? Drop me a line and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website: KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com.