How do I pick a Wedding Photographer?
Updated: May 4
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s talk about the number one category on all couple’s to-do list - Photography. When our couples hire us - 99% of the time they already have a photographer or have the one they want to use in mind. We wanted to ask one of our photographer friends (you might know her name, we only talk about her all the time), Catherine to share some behind the scenes information about photography and answer some basic questions about the industry. Some things we love about Catherine (outside of her bomb photography) is that she is kind, humble, supportive, family oriented, & has a major Travel Bug. So here's Catherine!
Hi all! My name is Catherine Akins, and I am the owner of Catherine Cansler Photography. I have been shooting love stories for eight years, and full time with my business for four years. I am married to my best friend which is cute and cliche, but hey when you live together AND work together, you gotta get along really well. We spend a lot of time together and it does truly work for us. I am extremely fortunate to have such a loving, selfless, and supportive husband who has taken my passion and adopted it as one of his own.
Since Catherine has been in the business for so long, we thought she was a perfect person to answer some of our questions:
We see that a lot of photographers can be defined by their editing style nowadays. How did you establish yours?: My story starts back in high school ten years ago (WOW I AM OLD - Class of ‘09 Baby!! Go Bruins!) when an older friend of mine noticed I was developing an interest in photography and bought me a digital camera. By interest, I mean taking “artsy” photos of leaves and backyard animals. After posting what I assumed as “works of art” in a Facebook album (before the Instagram rage) another photographer located in Dalton approached me and said I had “the eye.” After fan girling a little bit due to his long standing reputation as THE photographer in our small town, I sat down with him and he helped me buy my first DLSR camera, and the rest is history. The last ten years have been a tremendous growth period for me, not only with my photography education but just learning the ways of business and navigating the world of weddings - and I am STILL learning! A constant “work in progress.” With that being said, editing style is something that is a personal choice for each photographer and one that I am constantly striving to perfect and learn about. I have known my general “style” from the beginning and I always want to convey that in my photos, no matter the trend at the time. I try to stay true to what I think is timeless and constant. A goal of mine is to keep my colors true and rich, and use natural light as much as possible. I always tell my clients that I am not an “equipment heavy” photographer, and mostly work with natural light instead of artificial. My main goal in choosing to edit this way is simple: I want my brides to be able to look at these photos over the years and be instantly transported back to that time and remember that their shoes were that fun shade of blue, or that their centerpieces had those amazing colorful flowers that they worked so hard to pick out. I realize that it is more about who and what is happening in the photo and what story it tells, but I am capturing a moment in time, and I want that moment to be as close to how it was in real life as possible - colors and all!
At almost all weddings we do photographers bring a second shooter. Why is a second shooter necessary?: As with many things in owning a business whether it is photography, or having a wedding planning firm (I'm looking at you Megan and Mallory - you amazing fellow girl bosses!) you have to figure out how you’re going to run it. Everyone has their own opinions formulated and decisions within their business and it’s neat to be able to freely decide those things. With me personally, one of those decisions is that I will never be the photographer that doesn’t bring along a second shooter. Even 8 years ago when I shot my first wedding, I brought a second shooter and I haven’t strayed from that because I instantly learned the importance for me personally. The first and most important reason I feel that having a second shooter is a good idea is because it allows me to have a second set of eyes. Often, I get pulled in to my work and get in a zone of what I am focused on at the time (pun intended, ha). Let’s take Family photos for instance. Not only is my second shooter reading off the photo list and calling shots off, but they are helping me to see things I am missing while I’m framing the shot, whether that be a family member who is standing just slightly away to make the photo disproportionate, or some hair out of place due to outside conditions. They are also able to get candid moments while I am taking the more posed photos, or just things that I don’t see at the time. It’s always fun for me to look back at the photos while editing and notice the progression of the day through my second shooter’s eyes.
Another reason while I feel it is important to have a second camera in a pair of hands is because although many photographers do it solo and succeed, it is nice to have another active camera during the ceremony. It allows my clients to get two different perspectives/viewpoints from the ceremony. I think it is really a special thing to be able to have cameras on two different emotions - A bride walking down the aisle and the groom looking at his bride. A sweet and necessary moment to capture. Lastly, It’s definitely helpful to have some physical help and companionship during the day. Camera gear accumulates easily and so it’s nice to have a helping hand and buddy to talk to while working throughout the day. For Carrington and I personally, he gets to hang out with the groomsmen and takes photos, which I think makes THEM more comfortable having a fellow male present, but I get to hang out with (and boss around) my favorite person!
What is a realistic turn around time for photos/sneak peeks?: Again - this is a question that is solely opinion based and differs for every photographer so i feel that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. This is also a question I get asked constantly by fellow business owners who are creating a product for a consumer and friends who are wanting my opinion when looking for a photographer of their own. The most important thing I want to say is that I think it is important to be slow to formulate your own idea of how long the turnaround should be for a creative who is taking time to make something specifically for you. Everybody completes their work of art at their own pace and it may be quicker or slower than others due to many reasons and the last thing you want to do is to rush someone to finish a product. With that being said, I think that it is important to ask these type of questions along with others before making a decision on ANY vendor. Learn as much as you can about who you are hiring and paying for a service because if they do things differently than what you are needing/wanting, look elsewhere.
For me personally, the official turnaround time written in my contract is 5-7 weeks. I like to give myself two weeks of cushion simply because: Life. I never want to promise someone an exact time when realistically, life happens and each season is different. I work really hard to meet my deadlines and always try to do a good job maintaining that. As far as sneak peeks go, I know that I have a lot of brides who are excited to see a result from the day so I try to post a photo or two 24-48 hours after the wedding day. Over the month of waiting for the finished product, I post others (sneak peaks) along the way!
What is the importance of doing engagement photos?: Doing engagement photos with your wedding day photographer is something that I encourage all the time - it is so important. To start, I think that it gives everyone a chance to get to know one another if email/phone communication has been the majority of the talking. There is one statement that never fails to get mentioned before starting a shoot and it is as follows: “We are very awkward, so you’ll have to pose us.” This leads me to my second point- familiarity. Most people that I have dealt with are nervous and uncomfortable because let’s face it, it’s awkward being in front of the camera and no matter how many times you do it, it will still bring a level of uncomfortably. Now with that being said, If you have a chance to meet with your photographer for photos prior to the big day, it allows you to have a feel for what it’s going to be like on the entirety of your wedding day and also just how your photographer runs the session along with how you and your partner interact with one another with cameras present! I definitely think it’s a good idea, but there have been several times when wedding day was my first time meeting the bride and groom face-to-face, and they rock their photos!
PS - You are going to see a familiar face or two in here! Maybe even one of Megan & Mallory!
When Megan approached me about writing this blog post I was very excited but also initially a little nervous, because I feel like there is SO much to say about being in this awesome industry for almost 10 years, and being a person that tends to get overwhelmed with too many options I wasn’t sure how or where to start! Thankfully, Megan, being the awesome and prepared person she is (past bride of mine who wins the title for “Most Organized Bride”) gave me an outline to follow and I greatly appreciated that but also thought all were amazing questions and points for me to get across to hopefully help anyone who is trying to work their way through the wedding planning process whether it be booking a vendor, or having questions specifically about their photographer/videographer. Last year, I decided to start writing things down that I have learned over the years and pulled together certain tips that I felt would help a bride based on my experiences. I took all of those jumbled thoughts and turned it into a “Bride Guide” that I send to the brides that book us in hopes that it may help them to understand not only who they are trusting with their big day, but also gives them an idea of what to expect along the way. A lot of the questions I answered in this blog are covered in there as well, and so I appreciate Megan reaching out and asking me to share.
We hope this snapshot into the photography world was helpful to those of you looking to hire a photographer for your wedding and set real expectations for your photographer. We love working with Catherine and odds are if you are one of our brides and have asked for recommendations, she's the first one we say. You can view more of her work on facebook and instagram! Give her a follow and fall in love with the rich colors she brings to life. Thank you so much Catherine for sharing your knowledge with us!
- Megan & Mallory