How to Choose a Wedding Photographer
As a couple, you want to ensure that your wedding photos are exactly what you’d hoped for. You’re probably going to spend hours searching through dozens of wedding photographers to choose the wedding photographer to capture your special day.
So, how do you choose the best wedding photographer for you? There are many things to consider and look for, like the photographer’s personality, style, experience, portfolio and so much more. Here are some tips on how to choose a wedding photographer for you.
Start with the end in mind
When you’re planning your wedding, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is who will capture the moments of your big day. After all, you want someone who will make sure that your photos are truly a reflection of you and your wedding day. You also want to choose someone who will bring out the best in you and your guests.
Firstly, I encourage you to think about you and your partner and what you would enjoy looking at the images 10 years from now.
A list of questions to ask yourself
- Do you want photos that show you perfectly posed and looking at the camera? This is traditional wedding photography.
- Would you like editorial images that could grace the covers of magazines? This is editorial wedding photography.
- Or do you two want photos portraying you living in the moment? In this case, lifestyle wedding images are more in your wheelhouse.
- Do you want your photographer to be a “fly on the wall” and take a documentary approach?
What style are you more drawn to?
Determining the style of your finished photos is important because most photographers veer on the side of one or two of these styles. Like most even photography, there will be moments that are completely documentary/candid, and others that are lifestyle/prompted/
For instance, I’m very much a mostly candid photographer with a slight combination of traditionally posed portraits in formals. Although for elopements I am mostly candid with editorial.
Experience, service and the level of care you need
Next, look for a photographer that offers good customer service, and one that can provide high-quality photos. With that being said, consider your photographer’s experience. You don’t want to hire a novice, Uncle Bob, or anyone who’ll make you regret your wedding day. Trust me I’ve been there and done that, and it resulted in only 5 good photos out of a gallery of 500 from my personal wedding day.
Checking their portfolio
The quality of the photos that your photographer takes is also an important factor. He or she may not be able to capture all of the important moments of your wedding day and if they do, they’ll be out of focus, poorly lit, or blurry.
The next thing that you should check is the photographer’s portfolio. You can see their work on the Internet or on their website. If you can’t find it, ask them for a sample of their work.
Ask to see a sample wedding album that was delivered from at least 1-2 weddings, or comb through their website extensively. Usually between 30 to 50 images is a decent sample gallery size. From there, you’ll be able to tell whether they can produce the results you want. If they can’t, then you should look for another photographer.
Customer service and reputation
On the other hand, experience alone is not enough. I’ve heard horror stories of how wedding photographers have almost brought couples to tears on their wedding day. Stories of how so-called top professionals made couples feel unworthy or beneath them. That is not how any client should feel, especially on their wedding day!
This may go without saying, but in the wedding industry reputation is everything. Be sure you hire a professional photographer who has a good reputation. It’s always a great idea to read reviews online.
Before the big day
Most photographers will have several level of checkpoints in preparation for your big day. I typically start with a questionnaire that way I can always refer back to it, but other photographers prefer phone calls. Either way, immediately before or after booking, both you and your photographer will set expectations.
Over the course of the next few months, I’ll also send emails asking how the planning is going along. This is a great way for me to find out if you’re feeling overwhelmed or need other vendor referrals.
For example, when we chat a few weeks before your wedding, I can get a better feel for the wedding day flow. This helps me plan and discuss potential timeline tweaks for additional portraits you may want. Plus, we never walk into a wedding blind. This gives us a chance to discuss backup plans in case of bad weather.
Different wedding day approaches
Much like your preferred wedding style, how your photographer approaches your wedding day will help you out big time when it comes to choosing a wedding photographer. This is apparent in their personality and in how they photograph your day. Think more so in combination versus being mutually exclusive. A photographer with a focus on traditional posing might not have the personality that matches images of you laughing hysterically.
If you’re someone who values being comfortable, having a photographer like myself who can help you relax will be important to you. Earlier I mentioned being mostly a lifestyle wedding photographer with a focus on candid moments. For example, when it comes to formal portraits, nearly all of them are ‘prompt based’. Meaning I provide you with simple actions like “kiss their cheek” to get natural looking portraits of you. For more traditional portraits, I like to keep it simple so that your parents and grandparents have photographs they can display in their home as well.
On the other hand, if you’re wanting editorial images no matter the pain or level of comfort, a wedding photographer who has a ‘no bull-shit’ approach will be better for you.
How much you’re willing to pay
Lastly, your budget. The price for wedding photography varies based on the region, number of weddings, add-on options, hours of coverage and more. Most wedding photographers who photograph weddings exclusively start at $3500 or more for 6 hours of coverage. On the other hand, wedding photographers like myself who also provide portrait session options may start at $2500 and go up from there.
Hours of coverage
A typical wedding’s full day of coverage is 8 hours. I strongly recommend you not book 4 hours or less, since it’s not enough time to document everything. At the bare minimum, I would start with 6 hours of wedding coverage. Another important note: the hours of coverage is continuous, so if dinner falls in between this time frame, round up. You can see a sample overview and read if 8 hours is enough here.
Most photography collections only include a single wedding photographer. Although there are some cases where we may bring an additional photographer to your wedding. If having a second photographer is really important to you, ask the wedding photographers you’re considering if a second shooter is an option. I wrote a blog post on why I shoot almost every wedding with my second photographer.
Photography and videography bundled together
When these two services are bundled, most often one of the two aren’t the best. For instance, a wedding photographer who also provides videography most likely won’t have stellar video. Unless of course, they partner with a videographer to offer this service. Either way, most of the time they’re eating a large chunk of the cost when bundled since a top-tier expert for both would each cost $3500 or more. As long as you understand and are content with one of these being subpar, and the other being really good, you’ll be fine.
Finished Products (wedding albums, wall art, and prints)
A wedding photographer that can make the most of your wedding photo album is crucial. Photographers who promise thousands of images will likely overwhelm you. The number of wedding photos your photographer promises to deliver to you is a great indicator of their expertise. As long as you have a good wedding photographer, they’ll be able to use your amazing images and make them into a beautiful album. Everything from your venue’s detail shots, to getting ready, the wedding party, guests, other formals and more. All of these photos help tell the story of your wedding day in your album.
Wrapping Up: How to Choose a Wedding Photographer
The bottom line is all wedding photographers are not created equal.
In conclusion, weddings are the ultimate celebration of love, family and friendship. They can be wonderful days or horrible days. Nonetheless, your photographer should capture the atmosphere of the wedding, as well as all of the emotions.
You want your photos to look professional and to be best! I hope this post explained how to choose a wedding photographer for your big day.
My name is Niesha Fuentes and I am a wedding photographer based in the beautiful state of Texas. My style is laid back, but professional. I specialize in natural-looking candid elopement and wedding photography. My job is to capture and create timeless memories, so that you can have an unforgettable wedding day experience.