You have the ring on your finger. Congratulations! Wedding planning is in full effect. Your Pinterest boards are filling up with ideas. The list of things to do is long and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
One of the biggest decisions you need to make early in your planning is who your wedding photographer is going to be.
It is a big investment and you want the best, high-quality shots possible!
As a professional photographer, here are my tips for narrowing down your professional wedding photographer options.
Set Your Budget
The journey to picking a photographer begins with knowing your budget.
Do not waste your time contacting people or companies you will never be able to afford. Shop smart by deciding how much you want to spend before reaching out to professionals.
Knowing your budget is more than just having a dollar amount in mind. You should consider these factors:
The Number of Hours of Coverage You Need
Do you need a photographer for the entire wedding day or just for the ceremony and portrait shots?
The Number of Photographers
Are you planning a smaller wedding? If you are, one photographer may be enough. However, a large event may require a second shooter, which can cost more.
The Cost of Digital Images, Prints, and Albums
Some wedding photography packages include digital images or credits to use toward printed items.
Sometimes, you will only need to pay for the team’s labor and buy items like the wedding album separately.
Other Photo Sessions
You may want an engagement session, bridal or family portraits, or rehearsal dinner coverage. Factor this into your final photography budget.
It pays to have the budget in place before you can move forward with hiring a photographer that you can afford.
Book Your Wedding Venue
Knowing how to pick a wedding photographer can still seem daunting even after you set your budget.
Here’s a hack! Book your venue first and you can save yourself a lot of work. Here are some tips on making the most of your venue:
Research Photos Taken at the Venue
A lot of brides find their dream wedding photographer by looking at wedding photos taken at their venue.
You can search “(venue name) wedding photos” on Google and see what comes up. Take note of the shots and photographers that stand out to you.
Take Note of a Photographer’s Skills
Not every photographer is equipped to work well at every type of location.
For instance, if you’re having an indoor wedding, then someone who relies more on natural light may not be the best choice. You will need a photographer experienced in flash photography for a dark indoor space.
Ask for Advice
Venue managers work with different wedding vendors all the time, so you can also ask for their advice.
They will be able to recommend someone who is not only fun to work with, but does a great job too. That kind of insight is priceless.
Discover What Kind of Wedding Photography You Love
So you’ve narrowed it down to choices that fit your budget and work well with your venue.
You should now take some time to discover the style of photography that you want. Your wedding photographer should take and edit photos to match the vision of your wedding.
To figure out your favorite wedding photography style:
- Look through our articles for inspiration.
- Search on Pinterest for wedding photos and create a board of your favorites.
- Compare the photography of your local wedding photographers to find one that matches your style.
Ask on Social Media
While you can always run a Google search for photographers in your area, you won’t always find reviews or feedback that you can trust. Luckily, you can turn to your social networks for recommendations!
Ask any recently married family or friends who they chose for wedding photography. They will be able to describe what it was like working with their chosen photographer personally.
Or, if you are in any local businesses or wedding planning groups, ask for recommendations from the members.
Also, click relevant hashtags on Instagram. You will find posts from brides who are sharing their own wedding photos. You can leave comments and ask them about their photographer. Brides love sharing wedding planning advice and stories!
Use an Engagement Session as a Test Run
If you’ve found a potential wedding photographer, contact them for an engagement session.
Engagement photos are great to share on social media and for save-the-date cards!
You can use this session to find out how the photographer directs and films their subjects. Do you and your partner feel comfortable with how you are asked to pose? Do you like how they communicated their instructions during the shoot?
Do your personalities work well together? You may prefer a very outgoing photographer to run the show, or you may want someone who is a little more laid back.
You will also get to see a preview of your future photos through this session. Do you like their editing style? Does the lighting compliment your skin tones? Some photographers edit their photos in a very warm style. You may love this look but if you don’t, this is the time to find out!
You can also gauge the turnaround time for the final photos to be sent. Do they deliver in an acceptable time frame?
Interview the Photographer With the Right Questions
If you want to know how to pick a wedding photographer, you need to know what questions to ask a potential fit.
Just looking at a website gallery of photos or a Facebook photography business page will not give you enough information to make an informed decision on which photographer is best for your wedding.
Here are some things to ask BEFORE you book a wedding photographer:
What Experience Do You Have With Wedding Photography?
Not all photographers who offer wedding coverage actually have wedding experience. If you have a tight budget, that might work to your advantage. However, you should be paying based on factors like experience, so ask.
Can I See a Full Wedding Gallery?
Highlights on social media are nice, but seeing a full wedding gallery that was delivered to a couple shows you so much more.
You want to see how the entire day was captured. This gives you the confidence to hire this photographer knowing that your wedding will be safe in their hands from start to finish.
What Kind of Equipment Do You Use?
You’ll want to ask specifically about backup equipment. No professional photographer should shoot a wedding without a backup camera and lenses.
You should also ask if their cameras shoot with two memory cards so all images are backed up immediately. Ask how they store the images after the wedding is over.
Do You Bring a Second Shooter?
You may not need a second shooter if you have a very small wedding, however, with an average to large wedding, a second shooter is a really good idea!
What Is Included in Your Wedding Packages and Contracts?
Ask for the details of the packages. Are digital images and a print release included? What is your timeline for returning the photo gallery?
You will also want to know about the photographer’s cancellation policy and when payment is due.
If you like the answers to your questions, then make it official – sign the contract and pay your deposit!
However, do not give anyone money without a contract in writing signed by you and the photographer. If someone claims to be a professional photographer but does not offer a written contract, do not hire that person.
Go With Your Gut
Now that you have these tips for how to pick a wedding photographer, you can feel more confident about this part of your planning journey.
No matter how you decide to choose a photographer, go with your gut. Choose someone you feel comfortable with and go into your wedding day with confidence in your photographer!