Unsure where to start? Check out the First part of this series,
The first step I recommend is an email to establish your paper trail. I'd suggest sending each photographer a contact request with your name, contact information, and wedding date and venue location(s). I suppose it should go without saying, hold off on contacting vendors until you've secured your venue because until you have your venue, you really don't know what your date will be. By having a solid date, you can narrow down your selection to those photographers who are available.
Once you've sent the email, I'd suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours to give them a chance to respond. If the photographer does respond favorably by email (they're available!), see if you can set up a scheduled time for a consultation or phone interview. If they aren't available on your date, strike them off your list and move on. Most photography businesses (myself included) want to connect with you and will generally respond to you within that first day, but please keep in mind that we are not 24/7 machines. We usually work weekends and will sometimes take a weekday off to rest the mind and body and refresh or spend time with our loved ones. So don't be discouraged if you don't hear back right away. That's why a follow-up call is great to do if you don't hear back from someone.
After waiting a day or two, now would be a great time to do a follow-up call to those photographers who haven't responded. A follow-up call can go one of two ways. One, you get their voicemail or answering machine. I'd suggest leaving a message like "Hi, XXX, this is XXX. I sent you an email on XXX about my wedding on XXX at XXX. I wasn't sure if you got it, but I'd love to see if you're available and if we can chat! My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX and the best time to reach me is XXX." Remember to speak clearly and repeat your name and phone number back at the very end of your message, in case the first time was hard to hear for any reason.
Again, don't be discouraged if get their voicemail. I tend to keep my phone on silent because I can't tell you how many times I've been scared half to death in the middle of an edit, darn near jumped out of my skin, and had to start over. Plus, I like to give potential clients my undivided attention and that includes being in a quiet area where I can be ready to answer your questions. I also don't answer calls when I am driving (for obvious reasons) or when I'm in the middle of dinner or at a child's school event. But I do check my messages often and I return calls promptly, even if I'm not available for a date.
Sometimes you may actually get a hold of the photographer on your follow-up call and can find out if they're available immediately. If the photographer DOES answer your follow-up call, please DO NOT take this as an opportunity to jump into a consultation interview. Think back to high school when your teacher caught you off guard with a pop quiz you weren't prepared for - it's a similar reaction. Most of us understand that this is a huge investment for you and know you deserve to have our full attention, free of distractions. So instead, use this call as an opportunity to give your contact information across and ask to set up a more formal consultation at a later time or date. This could be just a few moments to give the photographer a chance to gather necessary materials before calling you back, or it could be another day when you are both able to talk.
While I don't advise waiting too long to book your photographer, I do suggest taking your time to thoroughly vet your options. I'd suggest setting aside a week's time to interview potential photographers and consider how you feel about your different options before making a choice. Unless you're just really excited and know without a single doubt that this is your photographer. In that case, you may want to nail them down yesterday! But for the rest of us who may not know without a doubt who we want, it's time to start preparing for the consultation.