So you said yes, you’ve booked your date and now you’re onto one of the most important tasks of your wedding: choosing your wedding photographer. I don’t mean this lightly when I say choosing your photographer is one of the most important decisions you will make for your wedding.
Why do I say that? Out of all the things you purchase and book for your wedding, photography truly is a lifelong investment. It’s hard to see it now but these photos will be the ones you look at 5, 10, 50 years down the road. Your children will someday want to see the photos. You want to look back on your wedding day with joy and still love your images all those years later. How awful would it feel to cringe every time you looked at your photos because you hired a newbie who didn’t know how to properly light your ceremony or took portraits of you and your husband in the blazing sun with shadows on your face and weird green-ish tint to all the photos?
Having been married for more than four years with a baby on the way, I think about how I can’t wait for our son to see photos from the day his mommy and daddy got married. I can’t wait until he brings his fiance home and we look at the photos again (OK, I can definitely wait on the fiance part but you get the sentiment).
You want to hire a pro who will make you look and feel like yourself and showcase the true joy that comes in your season of engagement. You want someone who won’t forget to take a photo of you and your mom or not know how to work their flash. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard of people’s terrible experiences with their wedding photographer and how much they truly regret it. I don’t want you to be one of these stories!
So I’m sharing five criteria I think are important to choosing your wedding photographer. Don’t base it off just one of these alone. Examine the whole picture (no pun intended) before making your decision.
There are so many styles of photography out there that it can be hard to narrow down what you like. I am a natural light photographer and aim to produce classic, romantic, genuine images at every shoot and wedding. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you should choose someone with a clean, classic style over the trendy dark and moody photos. The moody editing style is a trend and I promise you that in 10 years, you will regret it. You want images that will stand the test of time and clean, light, and bright photos are it. I’d also look at the posing/emotion you see in the photographer’s blog posts and galleries. Are the couples posed in a mostly serious way and you’re a fun-loving, outgoing couple and you want the photos to showcase that? Do people look stiff or relaxed?
TIP: Ask potential photographers to see full wedding and engagement session galleries, especially if they’ve shot at your venue or if they have shot at a similar venue. Make sure their style is consistent from gallery to gallery. If it seems like one is really light and bright and another is dark and moody, that’s not a good sign. You want to know what to expect for your final product.
I will admit there are some photographers with quirky personalities out there but what’s most important is that you feel 100% comfortable with whoever you choose. They should make you feel at ease and like they’re going to take care of you. If you feel like you could be friends with the person, that’s usually a good sign. But make sure you strike a balance between feeling like a friend and feeling like this person can be professional. Talk with them on the phone or meet them for coffee. If you can get a feel for who they are via their social media or website and it matches up with who you talk to in person, that’s a big win.
TIP: Look for reviews from past clients. Not sure where to start in interviewing a potential photographer? Check out this blog post I wrote about 5 questions to ask your wedding photographer that you won’t find on wedding planning sites.
This is such a big one most people don’t think about until it’s too late. I tell everyone — clients, friends, family, EVERYONE — that if you feel like you’re having to work for someone’s business, run for the hills. Don’t waste your time with a vendor who doesn’t make you feel like a priority. There are so many wonderful people out there who want to work with you and serve you that it’s just not worth your effort for people who won’t answer their emails. Of course you’ll find diamond-in-the-rough people who are horrible communicators but produce a beautiful product for you. But you run the risk of horrible communication and a horrible product. Let me say it again: Don’t waste your time on people who won’t give you their time.
TIP: You can tell a lot by the first few pieces of communication with a vendor/photographer. Do they call you or email you? Do they respond within 24-48 hours (save for weekends when most of us are busy working!) Do they answer your questions directly and honestly? Do they seem genuinely excited to work with you? All of these are really good signs.
This can be a tough one. I know there are a lot of super talented people out there who haven’t had a lot of experience in weddings yet and would serve you so well and deliver a beautiful product. Everyone has to start somewhere. However, the more weddings a person has done, typically the more skilled they are at adapting to challenging and unique situations. Wedding days can throw huge curveballs (torrential downpours ruining your outdoor ceremony, family members getting sick at the last moment, etc.) and you definitely want someone who can handle those curveballs with ease.
TIP: Ask the photographer about the craziest or toughest thing that’s ever happened to them at a wedding. If you’re going to go with someone who’s newer, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se. Just don’t do it because they’re cheaper than a more experienced photographer because this is typically a recipe for disaster. Check out their portfolio and ask to see full wedding galleries. Make sure they check off all the other boxes on this list. Make sure they’re a hustler who’s going to make up for their lack of experience with grit and guts.
This can be a sort of intangible but I’ll do my best to lay it out for you. Some photographers will talk to you the whole time they’re behind the camera to tell you how to pose, make sure your hair looks perfect, and make you laugh. Some will let you do your thing and be more behind-the-scenes. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. You need to decide which will make you more comfortable! I also always ask potential clients that if I were to wave a magic wand, what would the perfect client-photographer relationship look like to them? Do they simply want to hire someone to provide a service and deliver a solid product? Or do they want to build a relationship with someone who will help them with all the ins and outs of planning their wedding photography and guide them along in the process?
TIP: Turn the question on the photographer. Ask them how they like to work with their clients. Ask about how much direction they like to give while you’re in front of their camera. Again, look for past client reviews to see what they have said about their experience with the photographer.
I can’t write a post about tips for choosing your wedding photographer without talking about price. It’s a touchy subject but I’m not one to shy away from the hard stuff. I read recently that price typically corresponds with years of experience and I have to say, that’s almost always true. If the person has one year under their belt, they’ll start around $1K; Two years at $2K, three years at $3K, four years at $4K, so on and so forth. I didn’t realize this was true until I read it and then looked back at my pricing. It was pretty spot on. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. I know amazing photographers who have been in the business for 10 years and start at $4000. I know other amazing photographers who have been in it for two years and start at $5000.
TIP: If you’re getting married in a major metro area of Texas, you will generally find really good photographers who start between $3500-$5000. They start at these rates because of all the aforementioned criteria. If you find someone with lower pricing, it could be because they don’t have as much experience so be sure to do your due diligence. If you are able to stretch your budget at all, splurge on the photos. They’re the only thing that remains after the cake is cut and the flowers have wilted.
WHEW! This was a big one but I hope it didn’t overwhelm you. I hope it served to clarify what you’re looking for and what to ask potential photographers. You can certainly apply this criteria to most, if not all, of your other wedding vendors, too.
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