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Important Tips To Read About Hiring Your Wedding Photographer

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Valerie Demo Photography | Lesner Inn

We had the honor of interviewing one of our favorite Preferred Vendors, Valerie Demo with Valerie Demo Photography! Valerie started her Photography business in 2008 & she’s one of the most talented photographers we know in Hampton Roads. We are so excited to share everything we learned! Keep reading if you’re interested to learn more about Valerie & the important tips she shares on hiring your wedding photographer!

How did you get into photography?

I’ve always been an art kid. I studied painting and graphic design in college, but never really considered photography as a thing I wanted to do.  I took a few classes and was decent, but it wasn’t my thing at that point. I had a design internship creating wedding albums with an older photographer at the beginning of my sophomore year of college and I wound up assisting him at weddings. He was super old school and did things very traditionally, and to be honest, I hated it. What I found out though was how much I loved witnessing people with their people and all the little perfect moments that came along with it.  I fell in love with what wedding photography could be and realized I wanted to bring that to people.

How soon should you book a photographer before your wedding?

I tend to book about nine months to a year out on average, but I would definitely say as soon as possible. Post Covid, things are running even farther out than usual. (I have been booking Fall 2024 lately.) With that being said, I always have dates I’m surprised didn’t book and have random availability… so it never hurts to reach out even if the timeframe is closer than that!

Should I book my venue or my photographer first?

Venue!! You want to secure the date & event space before hiring your photographer (or any vendor!).

Valerie Demo Photography | Baby Shower at The Lesner Inn

How many weddings do you typically shoot in a year? Month? Weekend?

I cap it at 24 weddings a year these days (not counting super small elopements) and generally speaking, only take one per weekend. In rare cases, and with a lot of persuading, I will work more than one in a weekend, but I try not to. I want to make sure you get the best service and I still have time for a life! (Perks of owning your own business!)

How do you choose a 2nd shooter? And who is yours?

Oh. Good question. It has to be someone I would trust to take my own photo, is a professional photographer in their own right, and who I know has the same photo philosophy. I need to make sure they’re going to focus on capturing things as they’re happening, can photograph things well in all lighting conditions, and that I can trust to be laid-back, fun, and make the experience enjoyable for my clients. I actually don’t have one set second shooter, but don’t be surprised if you see my best friend, Misty Prewitt, of Misty Saves the Day, by my side as my second shooter. If I could have her there every single time, I would.

What is your favorite wedding month/time of year to shoot weddings?

Trick question: literally all of them. I don’t know how to describe it but every season’s light is different and they’re all wonderful. They all  make me happy. I can’t pick!

Valerie Demo Photography | Lesner Inn

When shooting at a new venue, do you prefer site visits with your client prior to their wedding day?

Funny enough, if it’s a venue I’ve never shot at, I actually prefer NOT seeing it until the day of. I like being inspired by the day and finding good light and cool spots and playing off what the couples’ wedding vibe feels like. There are very few times, even when I shoot at the same venue, that I find myself shooting in the same spots. I travel for about 80% of my weddings so it’s just part of how I shoot now, and always look forward to finding things I love on the fly.

What help makes the day go smoothly on the day of?

Wedding Homework! I have a pretty intense questionnaire I make my clients fill out before their wedding. The more I know beforehand, the more I can be hands off at your actual wedding. My number one tip is to make a Posed Group Portrait list for your family photos including all of the names of all of the people that need to be in each photo. (AND to make sure those people know they’re going to be needed for photos beforehand.) Your photographer will be able to just read off the names and fly through the list… and you can get back to spending time with your people.

Valerie Demo Photography | Lesner Inn

Do you shoot digitally or with film or with both?

Digital!  The pace and feeling of how I shoot is just so much easier without having to worry about film. I do have a film camera and break it out occasionally as a surprise to my clients, but it’s not a service I officially offer.

How do you define your photography style?

This one is always a little tricky. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It doesn’t quite fit into any of the niches people typically say. I think I just shoot authentically and honestly. I love when it feels like maybe you know the person in the photos or that you can almost hear the song playing or that you can get caught up in the emotions, too. I want people looking at the photos to feel like they were there in the moment. I guess I would say my style is fun and laid-back and timeless. Portraits included. What’s more timeless than just capturing people being themselves?

Do you recommend taking engagement pictures?

YES. YES. YES. Even if you don’t “want them” or don’t need them to use them for save the dates. An engagement session is the BEST way to get to know your photographer AND for your photographer to get to know you. Consider it practice for your wedding.  I don’t care if you ever post a single one of them (although I bet I can take some you would like enough that you’d want to), knowing that the awkward being in front of my camera thing for the first time is out of the way, makes your wedding images that much better.

What advice do you have for couples looking for a wedding photographer?

Definitely always ask to see full galleries and look for photos from similar venues as your wedding. Get a feel for the kind of photos they take. I promise there is a photographer out there for you without having to ask someone to do something different than what you see. (There are plenty of us and someone for everyone!) Keep in mind that editing styles and lighting styles will look differently than things you might see posted when it comes to your wedding, so definitely choose someone who’s style will work with YOUR day. AND more importantly… get to know a little bit about the photographer. You spend a LOT of time on your day with your photographer, and the more comfortable you feel around someone, the better! (Here’s where having an engagement session just double checks your decision!)

What advice do you have for couples putting together their shot list for the big day?

A super specific formal family posed list is super helpful! And letting your photographer know the things that are important to you will always be helpful,  BUT don’t get too specific with a pinterest-pose list or with pictures you want to “copy”. Sometimes a photo worked out great previously, but doesn’t make sense on your day. The key is to pick a photographer you trust and make sure you feel comfortable with them. Your photographer will know what will work the best for you as a couple and with the lighting and weather on your wedding day and should be able to deliver photos that you love and feel true to you and your day. Long story short… posed family formal list: YES. Letting your photographer know the kinds of photos you want: YES, PLEASE. Choosing a photographer you know will get you the kind of photos that you love and feel true to your vision: THE BEST.

Valerie Demo Photography | Lesner Inn