Finding a wedding photographer shouldn't be an overwhelming task. There are so many great photographers out there today and choosing one can seem like an impossible task. You want a photographer who is going to be excited for your wedding. You want a photographer who isn't going to steal the focus away from you and your new husband on your wedding day. You want a photographer who is going to deliver great images based on your personality and isn't going to use your wedding as an excuse to just build their portfolio. You want a photographer who is fun to be around. The problem with all of this is that generally you don't get a good idea of who a photographer is until your wedding day, and if they are not what you wanted it's too late. I wrote this guide to finding the right wedding photographer to help make the whole process easier for you, so you can spend more time planning the beautiful details of your wedding day that will look so good through a lens. If you follow this guide exactly; there is no way you can pick the wrong wedding photographer for you.
1. Lets start off with the basics.
Finding a Wedding Photographer isn't as easy as Googling "Your City Wedding Photographer" and hiring the first person who comes up. Think of Wedding Photographers like TV shows. Stay with me here. You have shows that you absolutely adore that some people can't stand. Think of a show that you don't like, a show that you think is just the worst thing you've ever seen, now think of that one friend of yours who loves that show. I'm going to bet they have a show they hate, but you love! Yet they are both TV shows. Wedding photography is the same. Some people love the moody faded film look while others love the dreamlike, bright and airy photos of other photographers. Just because two different people are wedding photographers does not mean their photos will look anything like each other or that you will even like their photos at all. And thats fine. Knowing what it is that you want is the first step to being happy with your wedding photographer and being confident that what they deliver is exactly what you have in mind.
2. Narrowing the ocean of wedding photographers down to a glass of water.
There are several things to consider when finding your perfect wedding photographer. First, figure out how important wedding photography is to you. Some people say it is the most important thing to them while others just want someone to take snapshots of the day. But If you are taking the time to read this I'm guessing the value of good wedding photography is high on your list. So next I recommend figuring out your magic number that you're willing to spend on your wedding photographer. The Knot.com recommends you spend 10-15% of your total wedding budget on a wedding photographer so the price of your wedding photographer will change depending on where you live. For that reason, a wedding photographer in New York will cost more then a wedding photographer in a small midwestern town. Generally, there will be a ballpark range that all of the photographers you find in your area stay within. Find your magic number and really review their work and narrow it down to the ones you can't stop thinking about.
3. Stalk them. Fall passionately in love with their work.
This is what most people call the hard part. Where do you even begin to look for photographers to fall in love with? Most people start by Googling wedding photographers in the city they are getting married in. You could google weddings at the venue you are having their reception. Search Instagram for #YourCityWeddingPhotographer. Or asking your recently married friends about their photographers. It doesn't matter where you start as long as you just start. Find 5 photographers who's work you love. Focus on their style of editing. Is it consistent? Does it look like the same person took all of the photos? Then pick out your one favorite photo from each photographer and save it for when you'll need it in a later section. Check out their Facebook page, see how often they post. Do they engage with their fans? Check out all the photos they post and make sure you love them too! Follow them on Instagram. We wedding photographers love to share our work and this day and age, any photographer you choose is likely to have a Facebook and an Instagram. Compile a list of your favorite photographers and get ready to contact them!
4. Contact them to set up a meeting
You might be saying to yourself... I know I love this photographer's work, why do I need to meet with them? Well there are a few reasons. The most important one is that you will be spending more time on your wedding day with your wedding photographer then you will be with your new husband! You meet with them hours before you say "I do" and you'll see them hours afterward, so you need to make sure you can stand to be around them that long. Weddings can get hectic not matter how well planned they are. So you want to make sure that you not only love your photographers photos, but you actually like hanging out with them too. You want to make sure they have your best interest at heart. Meeting with them will be the best place to get an idea of who they are and what they are like! Start off by sending them an email. Most photographers have some sort email management set up through the contact page on their website so thats always the best place to get ahold of them for the fastest response. Let them know you love their work, you've been stalking them for a few days now, tell them the date of your wedding, ask for any more information they might have on their wedding packages so you and your husband to be can look over it, and ask when they might be free to set up a meeting! Its that easy. If you are having a destination wedding, or don't live where you are getting married, be sure to let them know in the email and ask if they can Skype call with you and your fiance'.
5. Ask the tough questions to save yourself the stress later.
All that hard work you did for step 4 is paying off. It's time to meet (or Skype) your potential wedding photographer. Maybe you are meeting at a coffee shop, a restaurant, or even meet for drinks after work. The spotlight is mainly on the photographer since they want your business. They will ask you about how you two met and of course ask about your wedding plans. You two will obviously have questions about the photography packages that you reviewed, so now is the time to ask those important questions. Remember how I told you to save your favorite photo from each photographer earlier? This is when you need it. Photographers love it when people love their work, and this is a perfect opportunity to see their passion hard at work. Ask them to tell you about the photo. A wedding photographers job is to tell a story through their photos, so when you ask about it they will love to tell you all about it. Listen for when it was taken, was it staged or was it a candid moment? Ask what everyone was feeling at this moment? Did you feel the same way looking at the photo? This is when you can ask if they have shot a wedding at your planned venue. Ask if the venue has any restrictions that might not enable them from getting a shot you want. Ask them how comfortable they are with flash because this is an often overlooked question that many clients just don't know to ask. People think all photographers know how to use a flash. However, there are a lot of purely natural light photographers who's work is great, but if you two are getting married in a reception venue without windows and the lights go out, these photographers may struggle to still deliver the same quality of work. Ask to see a full wedding, both digital, and an album to get a better idea of what you might be getting. Ask to read over a contract. Ask what you can and can't do with the photos they deliver. Ask them how hands on they are on the wedding day. Some photographer are completely hands off. They don't pose a single photo because they are documentary wedding photographers who want to document the day exactly how it happened without any interaction.They focus on capturing the photos that no one saw happen. Other photographers love to pose every photo. They tell you to tilt your head, pop your hip, smile with your eyes, etc. If you're the type of person who already is a little shy in front of the camera, this might not be the right photographer for you and you should go with someone who takes less of a hands on approach. Remember the more questions you ask, the less of a chance you will be surprised later down the road. This shouldn't feel like an interview. Your meeting should feel like some friends hanging out and if it didn't maybe you should give your second choice a chance.
6. The Wedding Photographer you want to work with might not want to work with you. Thats great!
I know this sounds harsh, and it doesn't happen to everyone, but let me explain. You have meet with a few photographers and you and fiance have talked over who you like the most. You email them to tell them that you want them to shoot your wedding, and they email you back to say they don't think they can shoot your wedding. STOP! It's not the end of the world. Your meeting with the photographer is as much of learning experience for the photographer as it is for you. You have been dreaming about your wedding since you were a little girl and its possible that the photographer doesn't think they can deliver the type of photos you want. Therefore they don't want to disservice you by saying they can and in the end risk upsetting you with the wedding photos. If this happens to you see it as a good thing. The photographer is looking out for you and wants you to be 100% happy with your photos, even if its not from them. Go ahead and email your next choice and keep going!
7. The truth about negotiating your wedding photography.
Wedding photographer's lose sleep creating packages that best serve our clients. We want to make the process as enjoyable and as easy as possible. We know that planning a wedding can be stressful so anything we can do to make your life easier, we are happy to do it. If you're reading this, you're not looking for a budget wedding photographer. You understand that wedding photography is a business that is delivering you a lifetime of memories to share. But sometimes the photographer of your dreams is JUSTTTT out of your budget. Tell your photographer how much you love their work, how much you want them to shoot your wedding, and what your budget it. Don't tell them another photographer is willing to shoot your wedding for less. That tells the photographer that you don't value THEM as much as you value a few dollars. A photographer who values themself will always tell you that the cheaper photographer is probably a better fit for you. Be open to give and take. Maybe you two don't need parent albums, or engagement photos. Maybe you two don't need the full 8 hours and just want 4. Negotiating isn't all about price, sometimes its just building a package that better fits your needs.
8. GET EXCITED AND JUMP AROUND!
You have found a photographer whose work you absolutely love. They have your date availible. They have answered every question you can throw at them. You have signed the contracts. You have paid your deposit. There is just one thing to do at a time like this... SCREAM WITH JOY AND JUMP AROUND!!! You two just marked one more thing off of your wedding to do list. Pop a cork on a bottle of wine and enjoy having one less thing to worry about!
9. Get ready for radio silence
You generally book a wedding photographer 8-13 months before your wedding. Once you book your photographer there is a long time before the big day. After the deposit has been paid it might be 4 or 5 months before you start to think about your engagements. In that time, don't worry if you don't hear from your wedding photographer but maybe once a month. If you are following them on Facebook and Instagram you will be up to date with whats new in their world. They should be should be checking in to make sure everything is going fine with your wedding planning, and Im sure they will be happy to help with recommendations if you need anything. Don't hesitate to email them if you have any questions. If you have a specific time of year or event you want for your engagements, go ahead and schedule them with your photographer. Otherwise just wait until its time for your engagements!
10. Engagement Photos.
If you two have decided to get engagements with your wedding photography there are a few things to think of before you get them done. Im sure you and your fiance' have spent hours on pinterest looking at engagement photos from other photographers. Right now is when it's extremely important to remember what it is about your photographers photos you fell in love with. If their photos match the ones you see on pinterest with props and balloons then you shouldn't have a problem! However a lot of photographers love to focus on your interactions together. Part of their art is finding some good light and placing you two in it. A lot of photographers do not recommend props at all. They feel that it takes away from the true loving interactions between you two. Others love to make a show of it and go for something staged with props like a picnic in the park. If you two have specific engagements in mind that you want let your photographer know. Maybe you two are going to a beer tasting or another event that you want to have your engagement photos taken at. If so be sure to let your photographer know. Or maybe you want Spring or Fall engagements- be sure to communicate that. Chances are, your photographer has done this more than once and may even have some ideas that you haven't thought of. We are here to help and want you to be happy.
11. What to expect from your photos and what you can do with them.
This is one of the hardest pieces to write because every photographer is different in how they deliver the photos and what you can do with them. For that reason, I recommend you adding this to the list of questions you ask your photographer when you first meet. But at its core, it comes down to this: A photographer takes your photo, they send you the photo, you enjoy the photo. Now as far as the last part, every photographer has a different approach. Some photographers physically mail you a DVD of images. Some send you a link to their dropbox where you can download the photos. Others send you a link to an online gallery where you can view the photos before downloading and where you can buy prints if you want them. Some photographers include the edited photos, and others charge for them after the session. Every photographer is different so its important to know what it is you want and ask your photographer. But one thing is true for all of it, you will get photos. Thats kind of the whole point right? Now is where things get tricky for some photographers- what you can and cannot do with your photos. I hear what your thinking right now "What I CAN'T do with my photos?! What does that mean? I just spent a lot of money on these photos and now there is stuff I can't do with them?" Yes... But chances are what you can't do isn't going to affect you. Again every photographer is different so make sure you are very clear with your photographer what it is that you want to do with your photos and make sure the contract you signed covers it. There can be restrictions on anything from printing, distribution, and almost certainly editing your photos. Some photographers will let you do anything you want to your photos. Again this is one of the parts I can't give clear advice on because every photographer is different. My hope here is that by giving you these examples, you will be more prepared to find the right photographer for you so you and your new husband won't be blindsided by not being able to do something you had your heart set on. Knowledge is power here and it will save you a huge headache down the road.
12. Bringing up concerns to your photographer if your not happy wit your photos.
This can be a very tough situation to be in for both you and your photographer. On one hand you want to let the photographer know what it is that you don't like so that you won't be upset with your wedding photos, but on the other hand each photographer is different and has spent years creating a style that is their own. You might look at your engagement photos and think that you just absolutely hate them all. It might even make you think that you no longer want them to photograph your wedding. Like I have said before, that's fine, you are the client and there are so many different styles of photography that if they aren't the right for you then there is no sense in just hoping your photos turn out better for your wedding. Bring up your concerns. Sometimes you just don't like the poses, or you discover that you don't like one side of your face, but you absolutely still want them to shoot your wedding. Bring up your concerns so they can be aware of it on your wedding day. Some brides don't like the left side of their face and a skilled photographer can be aware of that and set up shots from different angles. Maybe after seeing your photos you want more close ups, maybe you don't like the photos of you looking into the camera and want more candids. Let your photographer know these things so they can spend less time taking photos you wont like, and more time taking photos you will.
13.Preparing what your photographer needs for your wedding.
As your wedding gets closer everything starts to come together. Depending on how hands on your photographer is will depend on what they need. I send out a questionnaire a month before the wedding confirming key details such as location addresses, times, phone numbers for the best man, maid of honor, and wedding planner so that on the day of the wedding you have one less thing to think about. When I send out the questionnaire I also ask for two things- 1) a wedding day timeline and 2) a list of family members they want group photos with. By far the biggest time consumer on a wedding day is the family photos. For some reason, no one ever knows where Uncle Joe or Cousin Sarah are, or if they are even in this photo or not. Having a list compiled of all the family photos you want AND designating someone who knows your family and can call them out when the time comes for their photo saves so much time for all of us. A simple list would be as follows and would of course include you two in each one:
- Brides parents
- Brides parents with siblings
- Brides parents and grandparents
- Brides grandparents
- Brides whole family
Then we can just mirror that from the grooms side as well. But maybe your favorite aunt who is traveling from the other side of the country who you haven't seen in years is coming and you want a photos of her too. The photographer won't know who your aunt is or how important she is, so putting her on the list will ensure she will be captured! Next on the list is a timeline. If you are getting married and having your reception in a different location, having a timeline is essential. There are a lot of things photographers need to tell your story. We need details of your table settings, photos of the venue, photos of flowers and little whatnots. So figuring out when we can grab these photos during the sometime hectic moments of a wedding is a carefully planed out process. Having a timeline ensures you get the photos of the important details you have spent so much time painstakingly deciding on and also helps keeps everyone stay organized!
14. How to make your photographer excited for your wedding day, and why it will come back 10 fold.
Wedding photography is an art that relies on the human connection to complete our work. If there is no connection then ultimately- your photos will suffer. So here are some things you can do to help build that connection with your photographer. Personally, I love it when my couples email me. When they ask me for recommendations or suggestions, it tells me that they take their wedding seriously. They are being aware of their wedding. Maybe they are having an outdoor wedding and want to know what they can do to light up the place by adding string lights. Sometimes they know of a beautiful place they want to take pictures but wonder if a 30 min drive to the location is too far and if we could get great photos closer. Whatever the question may be I welcome it with open arms. Questions build trust and trust builds a relationship. Tagging your photographer in the engagement photos you post online will always make your photographer feel good. When you praise your photographer, you're building more trust. Photographers can be sensitive about their photos. Have you ever made something, a pinterest project, christmas cookies, a home renovation, and you love it but someone tells you its not as good as you think it is? It hurts right? But when you make that pinterest buffalo chicken dip and everyone starts raving over it, it makes you feel better! Photography is the same. If you love it let them know! Knowing you love their work will make them more comfortable and confident on your wedding day which will always result in better photos and probably an extra sneak peek on Facebook too!
15. It's your wedding day... Relax
The time has come to say your "I Do's"! You have sent your timeline, your list of family photos, you have talked to your photographer about concerns and now the day has come. Time to relax and enjoy your wedding day. Don't worry about the small stuff. Every wedding your photographer has shot in the past has just been practice for your wedding and they are ready. They are excited and can't wait to shoot your wedding! At this point it is all in the photographers hands, so trust them. At the end of the night when everyone has danced their shoes off and its time for your photographer to go home, they will come and ask for any last photos you can think of before they take off. With any luck the photographer just might post a teaser the next day on Facebook before you two take off on your honeymoon to share with your family and friends!
It's a long list but your wedding is worth it, right? Your wedding doesn't happen every other weekend and we hope it will only happen once. You want to make sure you pick the right photographer. If this guide has helped you or if you have any questions I would love to hear about it in a comment below or shoot me an email! Of if you know someone getting married, share this article with them. They will thank you, I promise!