Finding the Best Photographer

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Devin Conklin and JR Lynn married on Oct. 24, 2015, at a small, personal ceremony in the courtyard at Dock580.

Before you can say "champagne toast," your wedding day will be here and gone. Ask any married couple-it all whizzes past in a flash. One minute you're walking down the aisle, the next you're smashing cake into each other's faces, and what feels like seconds later, you're dashing to a fancy getaway car toward (with any luck) your lifetime of wedded bliss. It's a beautiful whirlwind full of the dearest people and moments in your life.

Finding the right photographer to capture it all is-in a word-important.

However, in the midst of locking down details for everything from flowers to seating arrangements (and the inevitable arguments about whether to invite everyone from the office), scrolling through dozens of photographer websites can feel daunting. It's tempting to just pick one at random and check it off your long to-do list. However, like people and snowflakes, no two wedding photographers are exactly alike. Each has their own personality, approach and combination of available products and services.

For example, some offer print, others only digital files. Some are willing to travel, some further afield (say, Greece) than others (say, Cincinnati). Then there are the broad spectrums of experience and price to consider-not to mention availability for your wedding date.

To help couples find a photographer who's the perfect fit for their wedding day, we asked some in-demand Central Ohio wedding photographers (each an owner and/or lead photographer for their respective business) to share a few valuable insider tips.

Our wedding photography experts:

Ben Hartley, Style & Story Creative ?

Darlene Hall, Harvest of Memories ?

Comfort Witcher, Comfort Photography

Hristina Panovska, Aperture Photography?

What's a question or two couples should ask wedding photographers they're interested in hiring to help determine if it's a good match?

Ben Hartley (BH): "Can we meet in person before moving forward?" Whoever you choose to have with you on the wedding day will be glued to your hip. Where you go they go. Please do not make this decision lightly...meeting in person is the absolute best way to tell if a photographer has that perfect blend of personality and professionalism. Also, ask if they provide prints or digital only.

Darlene Hall (DH): "What sets you apart from the other photographers?" I recently was asked this question and didn't even have to think about it. (For me it's) my personality and the undeniable fun I'm having on a wedding day. Also, "Can you shoot images in low-light situations without a flash?" I personally take a lot of pride knowing that when I'm told I can't shoot with a flash, I am prepared for those situations because of the lens choices I bring to a wedding.

Comfort Witcher (CW): Couples should ask themselves some important questions: "Do we like this photographer? Would we enjoy spending hours with this person on the most important day of our lives? Would this person get along well with our friends and family?" Your photographer will likely be the wedding professional that you spend the most time with. Be sure that it is someone whose company you actually enjoy.

Hristina Panovska (HP): "Can we see a wedding album from start to finish?" Being able to deliver work under different lighting conditions and scales of space is important. Be sure your photographer's style and editing is seamless, whether it's a perfectly composed and lit portrait or 'getting ready' photos in a dark, cramped space.

Any red flags couples should watch for, or common pitfalls to avoid?

BH: A photographer who is unwilling or unable to show you full weddings they've shot (versus a few portfolio shots). Anyone can show up to a wedding, take 10,000 images and come away with at least one great shot, throw it on their website and open their doors for business-but what about the rest of the images? Ask to see a full wedding, to help to gain perspective on what to actually expect. It's a much better representation of the photographer's actual talent.

DH: If they have no website, run! If they have no way of showing you a portfolio online, they have no business trying to book a wedding. It's too important to trust those memories to just anybody. I think price point would be another red flag. I have found that those that keep their prices to $500 and below lack confidence or experience. More often than not, I get booked because clients value the quality of my images and will pay for that service and knowledge.

CW: I would advise couples to be cautious when working with friends or family members who are just starting out in the business. We all have to start somewhere, but I would not recommend hiring someone who hasn't shot any weddings professionally. This is a very important day and there are no do-overs. I would advise against allowing someone to "practice" wedding photography on the most important day of your life.

HP: Vet your photographer before meeting with them. Ask your venue or other vendors if they've worked with them before. But above all, meet with them in person and make sure you are a good fit. Photography isn't just about budget and pretty pictures-make sure you fit with them personality-wise. This is someone who will be your shadow for your wedding day, you want to make sure you feel comfortable with them and that you trust their judgment.

How can couples on a tight budget still come away with great professional wedding-day photography?

DH: Discuss options with the photographer. Some photographers might have some "down" time that they want to book up and (might be) willing to provide a discounted rate in order to have a full book of business for the wedding season. Or book a (less pricey) venue that will free up extra funds for a wedding photographer if that is important to them.

CW: Some photographers offer associate photographer coverage that is a bit less expensive. Often, if a couple loves a particular photographer, some might be willing to customize a collection just for them that best fits their needs. Photography is one area that I do not recommend cutting corners. If a couple is on a tight budget, but photography is of great importance...make it a priority. I recommend looking at the guest list and editing it down...(as) food and beverage is where most of the cost goes.

HP: Consider doing a shorter length of photography coverage. There are plenty of tips about how to shorten getting ready time or to stack some of your reception events, so that your photographer doesn't have to be there the entire day.

What services or benefits should every great wedding photographer bring to the table?

BH: It is not enough that they take amazing images. Your photographer must have the balance of personality and professionalism to give life to (your images) but also make things happen. You should never have to wonder, "Where are we going? Whose pictures are next? How should I stand? Does this look awkward? Did he get the shot?"

DH: Excitement-they should be grateful for the job. They should be open to ideas that the bride and groom might find important to them, while offering ideas that they might not have considered. Have a backup plan...and the ability to be flexible if something doesn't happen as planned. They should be available to help with any and all wedding-day activities (within reason) that will help things run smoother. Finally, a great wedding photographer wants to be there and no place else. Their full attention needs to be on the couple.

CW: A good photographer is not just an artist, they are a storyteller, a wedding coordinator, a therapist, a comedian, an iron fist when necessary, but most of all, a friend. Every great wedding photographer should be able to adapt to all situations thrown their way. As we all know, life and weddings can be unpredictable.

HP: These people are part of your team and (should) fully understand your wishes. Most seasoned photographers have had to think outside of the box to make their couples' day run more smoothly...if you hire the right professionals, they'll work together to make your day as easy and as memorable as possible.