Planning a wedding at any time can be overwhelming, but in the modern era, it can be absolute information overload!! There are countless articles on the internet, with scrolling pages of advice and Pinterest-perfect checklists on how to find the perfect photographer, but how DO you choose a photographer that meets everything that you’re looking for?
I’ve photographed several hundred weddings over the past few years, and I can honestly say that no two celebrations have even looked slightly similar.. and that’s because no two couples are ever exactly the same! When it comes to finding your dream wedding photographer, instead of running through a generic “yes-no” checklist of offerings, I can’t stress how important it is that you find a photographer who can best capture YOUR unique personality and vision for your wedding day.
I got married six months ago (!!) and finding myself on the other side of the equation was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Using what I learned as both a recent bride AND a vendor in the wedding industry, I’ve compiled the five most important factors that I’ve personally experienced when it comes to finding your dream wedding photographer. Keep on scrolling to learn more!
I know, I know. Nobody wants to talk about it.. but here’s my number one BIGGEST piece of advice for planning a stress-free wedding: make a budget with your partner, and stick to it!
That’s not to say that things can’t change as your wedding planning evolves. However, having a sense of exactly how much of your budget is allocated towards photography (and what it means to the other parts of your wedding if you decide to go over or under that amount!) will save you tons of unnecessary stress and heartbreak in the long run. If a photographer isn’t within your budget, ultimately, none of the other factors matter.
Not sure where to begin? There are plenty of online wedding directories, such as The Knot and WeddingWire, that offer a great starting point for those looking to get a sense of local vendor pricing. Then you’ll have to ask yourself the big question: how important is wedding photography to me? If you are looking to fill albums, make notecards, and cover your walls in images from your wedding day, it may be worth it to consider splurging on a photographer with both the experience and artistic style necessary for creating those timeless images (as well as a photographer that offers client printing rights!).
Some photographers choose to list their starting price on their website, which can provide a frame of reference for you in your search, but keep in mind that you may end up paying more for features like extra hours or a second photographer. Be sure to ask about the photographer’s specific offerings (which we will cover later), and not just their stunning portfolio, to see what sets them apart. It may also a good idea to find out what medium your photographer uses. I personally work as a hybrid photographer, meaning that I photograph on both analog film and digital formats, depending on what the situation calls for. While I love the distinctive aesthetic that this lends to my work, my business expenses do tend to be higher. This is an important factor to be aware of if you and your partner find that you value the look of film.
While all wedding photography aims to capture the beauty and emotion of the day, there are a wide range of styles out there to consider. With the right questions in mind and just a little bit of practice, you too can start to recognize the differences! Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to finding a style that you both love. I personally loved sitting down with my husband to brainstorm a list of the factors that we valued most in wedding photography (me: natural lighting and color, him: any shot that involved teensy, tiny people in huge, epic places).
When it comes to narrowing down a style, here are a few questions to get you started:
Do you lean towards bright, airy images, or darker, moodier ones with more shadow play?
Are you drawn to close-up, tighter shots, or wide, sweeping landscapes?
Do you enjoy the pop of saturated colors or the look of a dreamy pastel palette?
When you envision your wedding gallery, are you looking for mostly candid shots, detail shots, or cinematic portraits?
Figuring out what kinds of images are most important to you is an excellent way to get you closer to finding your dream wedding photographer! I’ll never forget this one piece of advice that a friend told me: she chose to pick a photography style based on her home decor scheme! To her, having framed prints of her wedding photos that fit the overall “look” of her home was a priority for her and her partner, and imagining how those images would look hung on the walls of their home led them to find their perfect wedding photographer.
Crazy as it may seem, there’s a good chance that you may spend just as much time with your photographer on your wedding day as you will with your significant other! If you’re looking for the kind of all-day coverage that starts with getting ready portraits and ends with an iconic sparkler exit, I promise you, you’re going to want a wedding photographer that you honestly enjoy spending time with! If you are unsure about a possible photographer, see if they’d be willing to meet with you in person or over a video conference call. By asking them how they handle different, and sometimes challenging situations, such as larger families or language barriers, you can quickly determine if this is a person you would enjoy working with, and if they would be a good fit for your unique wedding day.
I also LOVE doing engagement sessions and think they’re an amazing way to get to know my couples before their big day. The perks are twofold: not only do they provide me the time to learn what my couples look for in photos, they also let my couples see exactly how I operate, giving them time to ask any questions they may have along the way!
Wedding photography offerings can be wide and varied, so make sure you know what you will receive at the end of the day. Decide what is important to you, and look for a photographer who provides the things you value most.
When you are asking a photographer about what they offer, here are some some questions you may want to consider (and what I’m personally asked most!):
Do they bring a second photographer with them on the day of the wedding?
How extensively do they retouch the photos?
How do they ensure the images are not lost or corrupted?
When will the pictures be delivered?
How do they deliver the final images?
Will they be physical prints, in an online gallery, on a flash drive, etc.?
Are you allowed to print the photos and post them online anywhere you want?
It is important that you and your photographer are on the same page as far as expectations. Selecting a skilled, knowledgeable photographer who can provide you with concrete commitments on what they offer is an often overlooked element of choosing a wedding photographer. That is why our fifth and final quality to consider is…
Browsing the homepage of a photographer’s website is almost always a stunning experience, and scrolling through their portfolio can be hypnotic. However, it is vital to your hunt for the perfect photographer to keep in mind the fact that, hey, we’re all artists looking to showcase our best work! A sunset photo on a windswept hill, while gorgeous, may not be reflective of the same photographer’s work when capturing an intimate Chinese tea ceremony indoors at a local restaurant. If you are considering a photographer, ask them to show you images they think match the look and feel of the celebration you are planning. And always, always, always ask to see a full gallery.
Photographing a wedding day is a lengthy process, often stretching across several locations and lighting situations. When choosing a photographer, I can’t stress how important it is for you to see how an entire day flows, not just the highlight reel. I’ve worked on big commercial shoots and engaged in corporate client work that involved CRAZY amounts of planning, but because of how emotionally charged and personal a wedding day is, I honestly believe it requires an entirely different level of care and attention that not every photographer may be equipped to provide. After all, it’s day of memories that cannot be recaptured. I can’t state enough how essential it is to find the right kind of experience to match your wedding plans.
SO IN CONCLUSION..
Ultimately, I believe that photographs are one of the most important lasting mementos from your wedding day. While you can preserve your flowers and your dress, memories quickly begin to fade, and without beautiful, intentional photographs, there is nothing to preserve the laughter, tears and uncontainable joy of that special day.I truly believe that photographs should be something you treasure forever. I like to imagine sharing my own wedding photos with my future kids and grandchildren, and I already know that because of the effort and research we put into finding our wedding photographer, the feeling and emotion in those images will stand the test of time.
I hope this article is helpful for you! Got anything else to add? Let me know in the comments what you think!