HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
In a previous post, I gave you some advice on how to make your wedding and reception venue decisions. Hopefully, it was helpful in narrowing down your search to find the perfect location to say your “I Do’s” and celebrate with your friends and family.
So, to keep in the spirit of giving wedding vendor advice, today, I will give you some tips on how best to choose your wedding photographer. There are thousands of photographers out there, which can make your decision very difficult, so use these tips to help make your selections.
As I’ve said previously, before you start shopping for anything pertaining to your wedding, there are a few things you should do.
First, you need to have some serious conversations with your fiancé and your families to decide how much money is available to spend for your wedding expenses.
Next, you want to research, research, research. If you have never paid for a wedding, you might be very surprised at what you find out. Wedding services are probably more expensive than you realize, so educate yourself with what things actually cost so you’re not taken off guard when you get proposals and quotes.
After you know how much money you have available to spend and have done your research, you can now set a realistic and detailed wedding budget. Allocating dollar amounts to each vendor category that are based on your actual numbers will prevent you from shopping for services that are outside of your price range.
Next, I recommend that you get referrals from friends and family whose wedding results you loved. Their vendors may or may not be in your price range, but if they are, it will be one less decision you have to make.
Once you’ve done these things, you can start your quest for finding the right vendors for your BIG DAY!
Please allow me to preface this post by saying, I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, so I will not be giving you any technical photography advice about lighting and type of equipment to help make your decisions. Besides, unless you are well versed in the world of photography, all of the technical stuff will probably only make your decisions harder.
So instead, I will suggest that you rely on your senses to guide you through the decision-making process.
As I mentioned, I am not a photographer, but I know how important quality photography is for this special time in your life. Remember, after it’s all said and done, it will be your pictures that will tell your engagement and wedding day stories for years to come.
When choosing your wedding photographer, there are some things you need to know:
- What is your photography budget?
- What is your wedding date and time?
- What city is your wedding and reception taking place?
- Is your wedding/reception indoors or outdoors?
- Do you need a photographer for other wedding activities (engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, etc.)
- How many guests are you expecting?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start your search.
style of photography
Let’s be honest, the first thing that draws most people to a photographer is a photo, right? You see a picture taken by a professional photographer and you say, “I love it!” This is very common.
But what most people can’t do is say what about the photo spoke to them. Is it the attention to detail, the bright and airy feel, or the candidness of the shot?
These are important things to pay attention to when you are looking at photographers’ portfolios. What specifically catches your eye? Do you like the darker, moodier look? Do you prefer posed or candid shots? Are the vivid and saturated photos speaking to you?
There are so many different styles of photography like, fine art, photojournalistic, documentary, classic, film, and the list goes on and on. Although you don’t really need to know the technical terms, if you can look at a photo and say what you like about it, that can take you very far.
So, when a photographer’s photo catches your eye, take notice of what you specifically like about the photography. And then if you really want to know what style it is, you can always visit that photographer’s website; the photographer will almost always mention the style of photography he or she specializes in.
love their portfolio
Once you’ve gotten a grasp on what style of photography you like, and you’ve found some portfolios that really speak to you, then you can start to imagine yourself in the pictures.
Think about elements of your wedding day that you might want captured. Maybe it’s the detail of your grandmother’s bracelet that you’re wearing as your something old, or the tears welling up in your dad’s eyes as he gives you away. Whatever those details are, look for them in the portfolios you are viewing.
They may not be the exact detail you want, but if details are important to you, look for shots of details in the portfolio. It can be detailed shots of accessories or close ups of the groom’s reaction as the bride walks down the aisle. It will at least show that the photographer can capture the little things and spot special moments as they happen.
indoors vs. outdoors
Where is your wedding and reception going to be? Will everything be inside, or will there be certain parts that take place outside? You want to know this before you begin to look for photographers.
Why? Because this is another thing you want to look for in portfolios. If you are getting married in an old church and having your reception in a historical building downtown, try not to choose a photographer whose portfolio is full of outdoor garden weddings with sunshine and perfect lighting. And likewise, if you are planning an outdoor wedding, don’t choose a photographer who only showcases indoor spaces.
I’m not saying this photographer is incapable of shooting in indoor or outdoor spaces, but it’s not what they prefer otherwise it would be in their portfolio.
are you represented?
When you are looking at a photographer’s portfolio, do you see people that look like you, your fiancé, and your families? This is not meant to come from an insulting place, so please don’t mistake this question for rudeness.
It is a valid question. Different skin tones require different lighting and editing techniques and you want to see photos that show your photographer is knowledgeable and comfortable shooting your complexions. (Have you seen photos of a person with darker skin look orange and a person with lighter skin look blue? YIKES, that would be all bad!)
If you are in love with a particular photographer’s photos and you don’t see your complexion represented in their portfolio, check out their Instagram or Facebook pages. There may be photos there. If you don’t see them anywhere, contact the photographer; they may have some photos they haven’t published and may be willing to share them with you.
visit their website
An amazing place to go to rule out or count in a potential photographer is to the about page of their website. Here you can find out all type of information about the photographer, how they work, and who they like to work with.
The about page will likely give you an idea if the photographer will mesh with your personality. They will often give you some personal information about themselves, like if they are a dog person, or love to work with same sex couples.
They may also include the style of photography they specialize in and the style of weddings they enjoy shooting. There can be a bunch of info on the about page, so check it out before you fall in love with their photos.
willingness to travel
If you are getting married in an area that will require your potential photographer to travel, it’s best to know up front if the photographer is willing. Some photographers are all about traveling, while others are completely opposed to it.
If the photographer does not travel, they may say so somewhere on their website. If it’s not mentioned, I would shoot them a quick email and ask. You don’t want to waste time meeting with a potential photographer only to find out they aren’t willing to travel to your wedding location.
other wedding activities
Do you need a photographer for your engagement photos, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, etc.? Are you hoping to have one photographer for everything so you don’t have to use multiple people? That would be ideal, but unfortunately some wedding photographers exclusively shoot engagement photos and weddings. They may not do other events.
So in this case, you would have to decide whether to either use more than one photographer or find one that will be willing to shoot all of your activities. Remember, if you end up using more than one photographer, you may need to make some adjustments to your budget to accommodate them.
Everything up to this point can be determined before you actually meet a photographer in person. These last few tips would occur once you’ve narrowed down your choices to 2 to 4 photographers to schedule an in person or video meeting.
When you are looking for your wedding photographer, it should be someone that you like. I don’t mean just like their work, but you really should like them as a person. Remember, you will be spending a lot of time with your photographer, so you want to be confident that your personalities match.
Well, maybe you are the type of person where personality doesn’t matter to you and you just want beautiful images. That would be fine if this was a photoshoot with just you. But remember, you have a fiancé, bridal party, family and guests to think about as well.
You don’t want an angry, abrasive photographer that will bark orders at and make your loved ones feel uncomfortable. Trust me, it will show up in your pictures.
Also, before you interview potential photographers, have an idea of what’s most important to you so you will know what sort of questions to ask. Maybe it’s being super organized with awesome time management skills, or maybe it’s being very accommodating and willing to do what’s necessary to keep you calm on your wedding day.
Whatever conclusion you come to, just be honest about your expectations. This will only aid in how well you get along with your photographer on your wedding day.
see a full wedding
While you are interviewing your potential photographers, ask to see photos of a full wedding. Most photographers will only put about 20 photos of a wedding in their portfolios online. And those will be the best of the best photos.
Preferably, ask if you can see a full wedding album that showcases the style of wedding you plan to have (indoor, garden, beach, church, etc.). This will give you an idea of what you will get and hopefully show that more than just a few handpicked photos are amazing.
packages vs. a la carte
Most photographers offer wedding packages that may include things like an engagement session, or photo album, or prints, or digital files. They may also have a la carte options where you can add on to your package.
Before you make your decision, know what your needs and wants are. You may need more time than what is offered in the package. If so, make sure additional time is something you can add on. You may not want to take bridal portraits but instead want 2 wedding albums. Ask your potential photographer if this is an option.
The point here is to know what’s included in the packages so you don’t have any surprises. Think about what you may want and be sure everything falls within your budget.
comfortable with wedding size
If you are planning to have a larger wedding (more than 200 people), or if you have a wedding where there is a lot going on (multicultural wedding or multiple outfit changes), you may want to consider having a second shooter.
Some photographers require a second shooter if the guest count is above a certain number. If this information isn’t listed on the photographer’s website, be sure to inquire about it during your interview.
Most photographers offer this as an add on if it’s not included in a standard package. Having a second shooter allows for one photographer to take pictures of the big moments while the other can focus on the smaller details. This will also decrease the chances of special moments being missed due to the photographer being caught up photographing other things.
questions to ask
Once you have narrowed down your photographer search and have considered all of your options and wishes, there are still quite a few questions that you might want to be very clear on before you make your final decision. Some of them include:
- Has the photographer shot at your venue before?
- Will the photographer give you recommendations on locations for your engagement photo session?
- Will the photographer collaborate with your videographer?
- What is the turnaround time to receive the photos?
- What is the post production procedure?
- What rights will you have to the images?
- Will you receive high resolution JPEG files? Hopefully, this is a yes, if not, you will have to order prints through the photographer
- What publication rights does the photographer have (does the photographer plan to submit your photos to an online or print publication?)?
- Does the photographer have a contract? If the answer is no, RUN THE OTHER WAY
And lastly, there is one thing I highly recommend that YOU DO NOT DO. If you see photos that you like by a photographer, DON’T ask a different photographer to mimic their style. Either choose that original photographer or find someone else with a similar style.
wait! there's more
To assist you in making your photographer decision, below, I am giving you a free Photographer Consultation Workbook. In it, are all the questions you should ask while you are meeting with a potential photographer. Use it to document the answers and weigh the pros and cons of the photographers you are considering.
I am the owner of Adesuwa Events, a New Orleans based wedding consulting business where I provide intentional guidance and direction to couples who desire to plan their own weddings. I'm a New Orleans girl who lives for a good festival with amazing food (usually CARBS) and good music. My mission is to help bring fulfillment and provide guidance to all of you couples going through your wedding planning journeys while preparing for a marriage that is more memorable than your wedding.
Recently engaged and wondering what to do first? No worries, I've got you covered. Use this guide and you will be well on your way to wedding planning bliss!
Stay in the Know
Get great WEDDING ADVICE & MARRIAGE TIPS sent directly to your inbox