Let me go ahead and clear something up... there was no "we" in the photographer decision making process.. I knew long before the engagement who was going to shoot our wedding and Jon didn't even ask who it was before he said "that's fine" (his go-to answer). He knows that photography is 100% my decision, my domain, and he trusts me with whoever. He's such a keeper <3
With that being said, ever since we announced the engagement, all of my family and friends immediately asked who was going to photograph our wedding. We got a lot of "are you going to shoot it and just take selfies the whole time?" and "just sit it on a tripod!" but the secret was, I already knew! I've watched other photographer friends get engaged and seen them struggle with who they choose because its really a big deal. No one knows photography as much as a fellow photographer, so naturally we are all super picky. Especially me. I am the world's pickiest person.. wait until you hear about our venue search. That was a joke. There were a few key factors back in the early stages that were of top priority when picking a photographer.
I have a marketing degree and any of us can tell you that the "Four P's" were drilled into my head for all four years of college. Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. It's a marketing formula that's used by every company, blah blah. However, I was inspired by those P's to help in my search for my wedding photographer.
1. Photography Style
This should feel like a no-brainer but it's the most important attribute to me. There are many many types of photographers out there with different editing styles and shooting techniques. I really wanted someone who had a very similar style to my own. I picked my own editing style because I prefer it over anything so it makes sense that I would want my wedding photos to look the same. Clean editing, colorful but not over saturated. I wanted to look back on my photos 50 years from now and not be distracted by trendy editing. Timeless.
I don't want to assume this on the entire population of engaged couples out there, but just from my own observations, it seems that most brides don't care if they 'click' with their wedding photographer or not. Granted, most of my clients I have known for awhile or have mutual friends with so they know what they are getting into.. but some book sight unseen. I couldn't do that. Your wedding photographer spends the whole day.. the WHOLE WEDDING DAY by your side and I wanted someone that I would get along with and enjoy being around. It's so important that you get to know and spend time with your photographers. This is why engagement sessions are awesome because it's that one-on-one time that you should use to bond with and trust your photographer. I also wanted someone FUN! Someone who could have fun with us and bring that fun to life through photos! There are some boring and dull photographers out there y'all.
It's almost an unfortunate thing that I know so many talented friends across the country. I have a favorite photographer from almost every single state. It's so hard to know so many talented people but only pick one!! But I knew when the day came, I wanted someone that was local so that I could meet up with them if necessary and it's much easier to book someone who doesn't have to travel as far. It also goes back to #2 in that I wanted someone that I clicked with and most people that I have actually worked with are local.
I've written numerous posts and statuses about why wedding photography is so expensive and why it's also worth the investment. When we started the financial discussion of the wedding, Jon knew that the photographer would be the second most expensive thing we booked (besides the venue) and he was okay with that. He knows that photography is an investment but within that investment are limits. Could I have talked him into a $6,000 wedding photographer? Maybe. Would I have wanted that for myself? Hell no. There are so many talented photographers out there that are reasonably priced that I didn't even feel the need to stretch our budget that far. I found exactly what I wanted in a price that we could afford.. perfection!
Okay so there's one extra "P" -- oh well. Product was also an important factor. I wanted a "Shoot & Share" photographer. This means that you pay them once and you get all of your digital files... all of them. Without watermarks. Forever. To keep. -- I still can't believe that there are some photographers who only give you a handfull of images and you have to buy the rest or whatever. I just think that's ridiculous. Holding onto memories for more profit is a joke. When you pay a photographer, you should pay them once and they should give you the product. It's crazy to me that business model is not universal but whatever. So it definitely came into play when considering who I picked because I didn't want an ugly watermark on my wedding photos forever and I definitely didn't want to buy every single moment!
So who on earth could possibly have all 5 magic incredients?!?!?
When I first moved to Virginia Beach and started to put my name out there for weddings, I was constantly seeing some "Luke & Ashley" pop up. Pft. I was the new Ashley in town. Every time there was a wedding referral they would JUST SLIGHTLY beat me to the punch and get their name in there first. I was a little bitter towards them because I'm a jealous person, no shame in hiding it.
One day, I got an email from a client who said that they were sent to me from "Luke & Ashley" and I had one of those "damn it, they are nice" moments.. like I KNEW I shouldn't have been bitter because I had never even met them and they just sent me a referral! I felt awful and from there on out, I knew that these two were not only awesome at what they do, but they are genuinely NICE! From there, a friendship grew and I have never judged a book by its cover again. (They never knew all of this so if you two are reading, yes it's true, I use to hate you.....KIDDING!)
Anyway, for the last year they both have been so helpful sending referrals my way and vice versa. Anything from off camera flash to marketing help, these two are the most sincerely nice people I have ever met. Not once have I felt like they were trying to impress anyone or follow the crowd, they truly march to their own beat and I respect that more than anything. It's very hard to find a photographer that isn't trying to 'be just like another photographer'. Ashley has the sweetest heart and genuinely cares about helping other people. Luke, well, he's Luke. Kidding, again! Luke is equally as awesome. He both stopped what he was doing and helped me with some OCF questions in the middle of a wedding. They have the most well behaved kids too.. I never thought I would say well behaved and kids in the same sentence but they are! At least they were when I met them but who knows what they were being bribed with.
It's also important to note that they have been married for 10 years. Who better to lead us into our first moments of marriage than photographers that have been married for a decade? They clearly have some secrets to success and I love that their business is so family focused. I could write an entire blog post on how awesome these two are but I can't find enough words. Not only am I honored to have them by my side on my wedding, I am honored to call them friends.
Below are a few pictures from the gift they sent me... they had my heart at the pineapple candle.