Now that you have some names of prospects from referrals, the yellow pages or through your own online research efforts, it is time to conduct a preliminary interview. At this point, you'll simply contact photographers that you're interested in over the phone. You'll ask them a few questions to determine whether they meet basic criteria. Here are some initial questions to ask:
During the phone interview, try and determine if they specialize in weddings. You see, not all photographers specialize in weddings. Some photographers specialize in aerial, art, animal, people, still life, etc., and think they can shoot a wedding just because they can do everything else.
If you find someone who can only show you a nice picture of a polar bear at the zoo, a nice macro of a beautiful red rose, a Hawaiian sunset, or family picture in the park, you have a problem. Weddings are anything but still and situations are very unpredictable - everyone is nervous, the day is hectic, the photographic session takes precision planning, and everyone wants to be treated as a royal guest. You need a photographer that can move and groove with the crowd. The ideal photographer is one that isn't afraid to break into a sweat or hurt his back to get the right shot!
Just as important as whether they specialize in weddings is determining what style of photography they're proficient in. You see, there are many styles of wedding photography and you must choose carefully - taking into consideration you and your fiance's personal tastes and style. For instance, are you and your fiance formal and traditional or more contemporary and edgy? Do you want a designated time for posed photographs, or do you want your photographer to blend into the background and snap away? Are you looking for a photographer that can switch formats at a moment's notice? These are all critical questions you must both ask yourself when considering prospects.
To help you understand this concept further, let's take an in-depth look at the various popular forms of wedding styles that are available:
Traditional wedding photography almost always involves a shot list that is prepared by you and given to the photographer before the wedding day. The photographs are posed and organized by the photographer. This type typically calls for a shot list. The photographer will follow your checklist with the print quality, lighting, and appropriate background being the photographer's primary concerns.
Qualified traditional photographers excel in portraiture, making sure that their bridal subjects look amazing. Everything is planned in traditional wedding photography including body alignment, lighting equipment, the background, and even the wedding dress. Keep a few things in mind: there is nothing spontaneous about traditional wedding photography and it takes a significant amount of time. The desired result is a set of wedding photographs of a formal nature that can be displayed in frames and in wedding albums.
Portraiture is the most widely used format to photograph weddings. This style is used for your formal pictures where posing and precision must be implemented. It is one of the modes of traditional wedding photography and some photographers use the two words interchangeably. One of the differences is the use of 'soft focus' which results in a romantic, dreamlike photograph with pale lighting. Natural light is not often used as the results may be dark depending on the wedding location and weather conditions.
Photojournalism in the traditional sense of the word means creating images that tell a story. This has also become a very popular style of wedding photography. Essentially, it means that the wedding is captured in an artistic and documentary style that often includes black and white photographs. With the photojournalistic style, no poses are planned. The photographer wanders and shoots at will, capturing candid moments of the day. Mostly all pictures are taken without instruction from the bride and groom, allowing the artist photographer complete creative license.
Reportage is a more contemporary and somewhat relaxed style of wedding photography. Reportage photography means that the photographs are not posed, but are more organized that the photojournalistic style. The 'Reportage' style of wedding photography evolved from the journalistic form and is a very popular choice for modern and contemporary couples.
See what I mean? There are many different styles of wedding photography and it is up to you to determine which one each prospects utilizes. Most wedding photographers try and shoot a combination of styles, but as you look through their work, you'll see that they may be stronger at one style versus another. Some purposefully place emphasis on one style.
For instance, the traditional style is aimed at selling lots of photos to family and friends after the wedding. The Reportage and photojournalistic style captures "moments" that will bring the bride and groom to tears and make a beautiful storybook album, but will not be as successful at selling many prints to family and friends.
What you may find is that photographers that focus on "traditional photographs" cost less up front and charge on the high end for their individual reprints because they are counting on a large amount of reprint sells. Conversely, the photojournalistic photographer may charge more up front because they know they won't sell many pictures afterwards, but will create an album that will knock your socks off.
During your initial phone interview, take some time to take notes. Write down the prospect's responses and your impressions about the initial phone interview. After all, you'll be utilizing this information to weed out prospects. Always trust your instincts. If you didn't feel comfortable with any of the prospect's responses or didn't feel they were a right fit, then cross them off the list. On the other hand, if you were particularly impressed by someone, make sure that you put them on the "A" list.