1. A terrific aesthetic. All is lost without it. I look for beautiful images. Emotive images. Ones I would like to hang on my wall. Ones that make me laugh or cry. Images that capture the spirit of the event, ones that make me feel like I was there (or want to be there).
2. Strong technical skills. I look for pictures that are well-framed, well lit, focused, strong. I look at proof sheets to see how many of the thousands taken are "album worthy". I look for strong black and white and color images. Any one can pick a handful of images from thousands and create a portfolio -- it's important that the images taken from a single wedding are all strong. And that they look good even when the bride is not a super model or the church is dark.
3. A nice person. Is this someone I would like to be around all day? Would I be comfortable in front of their camera? Brides don't realize that they'll spend more time with their photographer on the day of their wedding than they will spend with their groom.
4. Experience. Even if they shoot digital I like to know that they know how to use a variety of cameras, both film and digital. I like to know that they can work in natural light and dark spaces. I want them to understand weddings. The most precious moments can flash by in an instant and a photographer with experience can often anticipate this. I like photographers to be comfortable working with groups of any size, but who realize that after a certain number of guests, they need a second shooter.
5. Depth of service. I look for photographers who own their own equipment. I like my photographers to have reliable editing assistants, shooting assistants, printers, album makers. I look for them to be organized and timely in answering calls and requests. I like them to have thought through their pricing in a clear manner with all contingencies accounted for.
6. References and industry presence. There are a lot of new photographers in the wedding market; I like to know that they are being hired by clients who recommend them. I like to see that they attend industry events or are published by magazines. I think it's important for them to be invested in the industry as much as I am willing to invest in them.
7. Price should reflect their value. I work with a lot of photographers and brides see their work and price side-by-side. So if they're priced too high or too low, it is immediately reflected in the reactions of our clients (even those who claim not to be able to tell the difference)! Somehow, value is a universal language.
8. Fit with my clientele. Ahh, the intangible. Tastes have changed over the 9 years I've been working with photographers. Old fashioned studios have gone out of favor. Digital is the flavor of the moment. Detail shots, still-lifes, intense colors and photo shoots are in. Web sites are important. Customer service is all important.
All photos shown are from my choices as a 2009 Judge of the PDN Wedding Knots competition, a national competition of top wedding images.