Brides Tell the Professional Photography Difference

Real brides share their wedding photography experiences, explaining how professional photographers made a difference. Read on for more ideas about what to look for in your own photographer.

Anna Marie Huffman’s Story (Married October 2009)
Esquire Photography

“To me, my location and my professional photographer were the most important parts of my wedding plans,” says Anna Marie Huffman, who was married in October 2009. A self-proclaimed “theater and music kid,” she always had an appreciation for the arts, but she also knew that her wedding photography would serve a very specific purpose.
“I knew I’d try to live in the moment during the wedding day and would miss so many things,” Huffman says as she explains her reason for choosing a professional. “Photography lives on perpetually, and it allows you to relive certain aspects of the day that you forget.”
Find-a-PhotographerHuffman and her now husband ended up planning the whole wedding in two months. Luckily, they shared similar views on what they wanted in the wedding, and they worked together to get everything accomplished. “We prioritized, wrote down our goals and went through our list,” she says.

Top of that list was a professional photographer. A bridal show connected Huffman with her photographer, David Esquire of Esquire Photography in Huntington Beach, Calif. She was looking for a certain artistic attribute and saw three photographers’ bridal show displays that she liked, but she wasn’t able to speak to Esquire until after the show. It was his personality that sealed the deal.

“We met David that evening for drinks and just meshed,” Huffman says. “I put a deposit down that night! I knew I needed a photographer who understood our vision [for the wedding] and who fit with our personalities.” In fact, her husband and her photographer recently went to the movies together (the relationship has held strong even after the wedding!).

Along with personality, Huffman points to her photographer’s outstanding service and professionalism as reasons for her satisfaction. For example, Esquire came location scouting with them, taking test shots and offering his artistic suggestions…because he knew how important the location and photography were to her. He even brought lunch on the wedding day—something that is often forgotten in the mad rush. And he surprised them with a slideshow of their engagement images during their reception.

Artistic idea-sharing is a type of service that you may not realize you should be looking for during your photographer search, but it can be extremely beneficial to brides in the planning process. Along with his location scouting help, Esquire also suggested a videographer, which resulted in shots Huffman couldn’t have received otherwise. “David shared how important it is for the photographer and videographer to have experience together because how they work together will be reflected in both products (like knowing where to stand to not be in the way),” she explains.

Still, not many brides work their desire for great photography into their wedding budget, even though photography is the one area where brides shouldn’t cut corners. Huffman thinks that brides often feel they have to meet certain expectations with their weddings. That doesn’t have to be, she says. “Let your wedding be a reflection of your style and relationship—a great photographer will capture that, and it will go from there.

“It’s give and take, but you can budget the rest of your wedding and still do phenomenal things. Maybe instead of a five-course meal, you could have hors d’oeuvres…but don’t cut the budget on photography. No one’s going to say they had a bad time at your wedding because the linens were cotton, not silk. But you WILL look back at your photographs.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, I have a friend of a friend who has a pretty good camera.’ That may be true, but you only get married once—I didn’t want to trust that to ‘maybe good enough.’ I wanted a professional photographer because the photographs are what you have at the end.”

Jamie Snively’s Story (Married November 2009)
Photography by Leanne Reis

As you might expect, Jamie Snively, an entertainment coordinator, knows the ins and outs of the wedding industry (and knows several pro photographers). But for their wedding, she and her husband didn’t want to hire their friends—they wanted them there as guests. Still, knowing the industry means she knew the value professional photography has.
Snively did an Internet search for professional photographers, browsing for prices to narrow her search. One of the photographers she came across was Leanne Reis of Photography by Leanne Reis. “Some friends referred Leanne to me, but what sealed the deal was her personality—we connected,” she says. “I knew the first time I talked to Leanne—I’d already made up my mind on the phone. In fact, my maid of honor commented that I must have found the perfect photographer because we were laughing together the entire time during the walk-through.”

But before Snively chatted with her photographer, she did a thorough search of her website. She loved the decades of wedding photos on the site, include some albums that helped her see how Reis captured the essence of the wedding story from beginning to end. An added bonus? One of the featured brides was an old friend of Snively’s!

Still, Snively remembers being nervous about the photography at first. “I always blink, and I wanted our photos to be perfect,” she says. And their photographer was able to calm their fears, both by making them laugh at certain times and by being unobtrusive during the ceremony. “We were already stressed enough during our vows, without adding cameras in our faces. Leanne simply wasn’t in the way, yet captured everything.”

And despite her initial reserves about photography, Snively admits that their favorite part of the wedding was after the ceremony when it was just her husband and her being photographed. “It was the most quality time we had all day,” she says. “Leanne was our bodyguard, keeping the others away, and it didn’t even feel like she was there.”
Along with that kind of competent, sensitive service, there’s another professional element that was reassuring for Snively and her husband to see in her photographers: data protection. “Before our photographers even left the wedding, they were on the computer backing all of our photos up twice,” she notes. They weren’t taking chances!

Snively’s call to future brides addresses the need to look beyond price and other easily visible attributes: “Other brides need to find photographers who make them laugh. It’s very helpful when you’re nervous! But you also need a photographer who will make you feel that your wedding is as important to him or her as it is to you.”

Paula Boatright Lipka’s Story (Married November 2009)
Dawn McCarthy Photography

When Paula Boatright and Brian Lipka decided to host their wedding hundreds of miles south of their Northern Virginia home, the thought occurred that planning a remote wedding might have its challenges. “We knew the logistics would be harder to control,” says Paula, and this daughter of a retired professional photographer knew that one of the most important things she wanted to address first was finding the perfect photographer for their big day.

“My in-laws had retired to the Palm Coast, Fla., area, so one of my first stops was a bridal show there,” Paula explains. Of course, wedding product providers of all kinds, including professional photographers, attend bridal shows, but Paula recounts that her final choice—PPA member Dawn McCarthy of Jacksonville, Fla.—was someone she didn’t meet there. “Dawn followed up with an email several days later, and one look at her website and blog had me thinking she was ‘the one’ for our wedding.”  

Growing up with a wedding photographer as a father meant that Paula had the inside track on what to look for. “Just looking at Dawn’s images, I knew she was everything I had imagined I wanted in a photographer for our wedding,” she says. But Paula reserved final judgment until the couple had a chance to visit with McCarthy in her office. “You have to see if their personality meshes with you and your fiancé—the last thing you want on your wedding day is to be in a tiff with someone who has that big of a part in everything.”

Style and Creativity Matter, Too
Paula also advises other brides to pay close attention to a photographer’s style. “Is it what you envisioned for your wedding albums and photos?” she asks. “I looked for the details that the photographer captured. In my case, I made a lot of my decorations and put a lot of hard work into everything. I loved how Dawn took the time to capture all those details for me to look back on. I wanted a photographer who wasn’t just going to focus on the ‘stand and shoot’ pictures. I wanted someone to capture our memories in an artistic way.”

And, Paula adds, she was adamant about her photographer being able to tell a story. “I wanted someone who cared about Brian’s and my story and, unlike other photographers we considered, Dawn didn’t start talking to us about how many were in the wedding party or the details of the location…one of the first things she asked was how we met. What was our love story?”  

Can Your Photographer Make the Best of Everything?
Paula knows that McCarthy’s eye for detail translated into better wedding day photos, including her skills with posing. “If we were not comfortable with a particular pose, Dawn would just move us into something else. It all felt very real and not staged,” says Paula. “Someone who didn’t have a lot of experience working with brides and grooms might not have been able to adjust and come up with creative alternatives like Dawn did.”

Paula also said customer referrals and stories from other brides about their experiences with McCarthy helped her make her final decision. “I looked at her blog and her Facebook page, and her clients were just raving about how awesome she was to work with,” she adds. “That meant a lot to me. If other brides have had a great experience with a photographer, chances are better that you’ll like working with him or her, too.”

Getting What You Pay For:  Experience Counts
For brides who are crunching the numbers and wondering whether photography is a place to save, Paula has another piece of advice—“no way!” she says. “No skimping on the photography—these are your memories. This is your forever—the things you’re going to look back on for the rest of your life.”   

Having said that, Paula also understands that budgeting is critical and that dollars can be stretched to the max when planning a wedding. “I grew up with a photographer and even I didn’t realize how expensive it can be to get what you really want. But we pinched pennies in other places and spent what we needed to get the wedding pictures we wanted.”

As a matter of fact, Paula says that when they saw some of McCarthy’s sample albums, they fell in love and bought one, spending more than they had originally planned. “We just knew Dawn would take awesome pictures and could not wait to see how creatively she would arrange them in our album.”

And if you’re wondering—Dad also approved. “He was blown away by how good they are,” says Paula.

It isn’t just the pro photographer who appreciates the Lipkas’ wedding pictures, either. “I’ve had strangers comment on the ones in my office,” Paula says. “People go out of their way to tell me how awesome they are and how wonderful our wedding looked. I give all the credit to Dawn. She really knows her stuff!”

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