I believe that aside from your significant other (and a few select family members and friends), the photographer(s) is the most important person at your wedding/event. This could be because Chad and I are firm believers that photos are important treasures and should be valued as such. Your photographer takes on the role of a story teller at one of the biggest events of your life - without them you are left with vague memories that likely will not stand the test of time. Photos capture precious moments that we may or may not remember, or deem important in the moment, but when seen later make an impact. Great photos should make you feel something. Great photographers have the ability to capture this again and again.
A bit about our experience:
One of Chad's many wedding/pre-nuptial party responsibilities was selecting the photographer. As an Energy Research Analyst this meant extensive research, a scoring system and a lengthy excel spreadsheet that I could barely understand, but since Chad knew what it translated to I didn't worry. He narrowed down his top 8 choices and used a scale to rate them and rank them. After an exhaustive search, Chad selected Nathan Russell Photography.
We first met Nathan for our engagement photo shoot- a day I had actually been dreading. I think I put more thought into what I wore that day than what I wore at my wedding. #priorities. I can be a bit rough around the edges, so meeting some new person at 7:00 am in downtown Austin to take my photo is not really my thing. Chad and I had pre-selected locations where we wanted to shoot. The first was the "Greetings from Austin" sign. After introductions and some chit chat, Nathan started to shoot --
So there we stood next to a building while cars drove by and some stranger snapped away. I was uptight, uncomfortable, and self-conscious. It was terrible. I imagined the whole morning would continue to be this really uncomfortable experience, and it was, for about 5 minutes. Nathan used his ninja magic and - all of the sudden - I started to relax and Nathan was no longer this guy shooting our photos, he was just Nathan. A person with a great sense of humor, deep love for his profession and a quirky way of seeing the world through his viewfinder. We went all around downtown and South Congress, and after a couple of hours this experience was ending. I was sort of sad - I had actually really enjoyed myself. It didn't hurt that Nathan got our jokes or at least pretended like he did.
This same feeling carried over into our wedding weekend experience as he and his partner (and wife) Amy shot at our pre-nuptial party (in lieu of a rehearsal dinner) and wedding. They were with us through it all - there for the stress filled, high-energy, anxious moments. Amy was with me when I put my dress on and my mom and best friends were at my side. She was with me when I waited for what seemed like an eternity to walk downstairs to meet my father and then down the aisle to join my future husband. Nathan was at Chad's side to capture him tearing up before I even walked out the doors. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but I felt cared for and that my memories were being cared for as well.
Chad and I have probably looked through our photos more than 50 times. There were moments that were captured that hit me like a ton of bricks and made me feel so grateful. People who, had circumstances been different, may not have been there to share the weekend with us or any future events for that matter. Stories which I will share at some point but that's the heavy and this post isn't about that. I expected that I would love our photos; I never expected to feel so much when I looked at them - and that is priceless. As silly as I think it is, I hope I never stop tearing up when I look back through my wedding photos.
The biggest piece of advice that can be given when selecting a photographer is to do your homework. I know it is easy to just take someone's word for it, but digging deeper and finding someone who can see your vision, understand you and make you comfortable, and all the while capture amazing photos is worth it. Check their website, find publications that they are featured in, talk to them directly, and check their ENTIRE portfolio - see if the photos they take and their personality fit with you and what you want. Make sure they are not one trick ponies and have the experience and skill to produce creative work. This person will be with you on a very important occasion in your life. The last thing to worry about on the day of your wedding or event is the quality of the photos. Think about it.