1. Scour blogs, message boards, weddings in magazines, word of mouth suggestions, etc, to compile a master list of photograpers.
Done. And 40 lines long!
2. Visit all their websites. Their best pictures are on the front page and the banner design, so if the sites don't immediately appeal to you, cut the photographer from your list.
Done. Down to 15 people.
3. Query all of them for pricing and date availability. Obviously, you can cross off anyone out of your budget, or already booked.
Sniff. Goodbye, John Arcara and $7,000 package.
4. Make appointments to visit them, attempting to keep the appointments all within a 2 week period for efficient decision making.
So that's where it got difficult. (Step 5 would have been go to contract!) When I met with the photographers, I found that I left each meeting feeling underwhelmed and less impressed than when I had gone in. The proofs bored me, and I realized what I saw on websites was 10 awesome images, chosen from 500 mediocre ones. Some of the photographers had weird personalities- dry, sarcastic, unprofessional. One was impossible to communciate with via email- I'd reply immediately to her emails, then not hear back for two days. We went back and forth saying the same things, to the point that I wondered if I was speaking another language without realizing it. I almost blew off our meeting, but decided to go, as I had nothing better to do. My dad came with me to lend his opinion, since Mr. B was working.
Big mistake. I was blown away by her photography. It felt like she brought a sense of artistic talent, as opposed to just capturing random snapshots. Her pictures seemed to capture beautiful lighting, and were noticeably well composed, even to an amateur like me. Though we had a strange moment in our meeting where she quizzed us on the prices other photographers quoted us (we declined to divulge the information, saying we felt a little weird) she was overall super sweet. I told her we were really interested, and that I just had to run things by my fiance and I'd be in touch.
Some of her images (Source)
When I got home from our meeting, I realized I definitely didn't want to wait any longer to think on the decision. I knew Mr. B would agree on her, so I logged into my email, ready to ask for a contract.
Only she emailed had emailed me first, a mere 15 minutes after our meeting ended. The note simply read, "I'm so sorry, but I am no longer available for your date. I wish you luck on your search."
I was FURIOUS. Clearly, that strange moment had impacted her a lot- she had said in the meeting there were no other inquiries on my date, so how could she "suddenly" be booked? I should have listened to my gut, which gave me doubts about her just from our Gmail conversations. I was very confused, as she has nothing but good reviews online. And I'm so angry- I'd finally found a photographer I liked, only to have her wind up being an unprofessional and kind of nutty. My fiance even tested her out, using a different venue but our same wedding date, and lo and behold, she was available. And, by the way, significantly nicer in her emails to him.
So back to the drawing board, I guess.