how to choose a wedding photographer?
if you have found yourself typing this into google, you are not alone. it’s just one of many super stressful aspects of planning that wedding. like most things in the world today, everyone has an opinion about it. and if it’s not an opinion, it’s a cousin, friend, or coworker who is a photographer you “should hire.” and this is where it gets tricky… word of mouth is a photographer’s livelihood, most of the time. it’s well-established and typically the best referral network… so that’s a great start. but all photographers are not created equal. nor do we want to be… so now it’s on you to filter through the recommendations, the targeted ads, and the over-enthusiastic advice.
here are some things to think about that might help.
in my experience, a photographer is one of the first few vendors booked, aside from the venue. it’s easy to panic and book the first person who responds to you. but let’s make sure that you are doing everything in your power to book the photographer who will give you the images and the experience you want. as with all aspects of life… it’s important here to trust your gut. ask a few of the right questions… and always carry a towel.
SO. were it me in your shoes… here’s where I would start. determine the location in which you are getting married. local? great. destination? great. do a cursory search of “wedding photographer” + that location name. run through the results and make a short-list (or in my case… open 30 tabs of links) of business names you find interesting, + anyone you see with lots of high level reviews.
peruse a few of these websites that interest you right away. whittle away any immediate no’s. anyone left who reaaallly piques your interest, go check out their insta.
get a separate page ready and start making some notes about consistencies within the images you are finding that you like. certain colors? moods? vibes? style of shooting? could be… bright and airy; vibrant; vintage look and feel; super edgy; tons of fun effects and props (think smokebombs, mirrors, sparklers); documentary or journalistic; lots of natural light vs. lots of flash or controlled light sources; posed portraits vs focus on emotion and movement and moments etc…continue to remove candidates whose work is not consistent with those things. remember some of these words and try to include them when you eventually send an inquiry email.
continue to eliminate. if you end up with 3-5 photographers whose style and images you love… start to dig into their personalities a little. read their “about me’s” on their websites. read a few of their captions on their images and posts… do they connect with their clients? do they follow a formula where every post is the same and there’s no distinction between clients? are they funny? serious? playful? religious? think about how important these things are to have around you on your wedding day/and or your engagement session. do you need someone who can handle a 300 person wedding? someone who can easily blend in to the small group of 20 that you will have around? go with your gut here. for most people… they will have contact with their photographer before during and after the wedding, as well as potentially for engagement photos, or sometimes a day-after session. if you are having any kind of a traditional wedding, you will be around each other for 8-12 hours on a day where your emotions are high (and probably have been for awhile) and you’re extra stressed. maybe don’t pick someone whose entire vibe low-key annoys you.
*** if you are truly seeking a specific photography style, get on instagram and start following those hashtags…here are some hashtags I personally recommend– relative to my own shooting style.
*** having a destination wedding, but can’t find a local photographer for the area that stands out to you? start here
once you decide to start dropping those DM’s (or really, please just use their official email channel) don’t overthink it. answer the questions they have asked on their form. sprinkle in just a couple casual details about how you found their work, or how it aligns with your (insert words here that you came up with earlier to describe the styles you like). if they don’t have all their pricing information listed, request further info on that.
and then chill.
any photographer worth their salt will have some follow up questions for you regarding location and size of the wedding; possibly what your style or vibe is going to be; what kind of timeline you are considering, and what their next steps and process include. if you are interested in taking a local photographer and having them travel to your destination wedding, there will be more questions regarding that process and pricing, and finally and I cannot stress this enough… if they do not offer them to you up front, please request to view multiple full galleries that have been delivered to past clients. it is easy to create a highlight reel for a portfolio. it is much harder to be consistent throughout various types of wedding day, locations, light and weather changes, sizes of large to small weddings and wedding parties, and a million other variables.
some more advice in no particular order…
— get and use a second shooter if at all possible or at all in the budget
— know that really most of the time, you do not need more than 10 hours of coverage on your wedding day
— know that it’s ok to have some downtime in your schedule, and or, let the photographer leave before the end of the wedding (it’s your day, do what you want)
— family photos are important and most people hate them but they are the most likely thing you will print after B+G photos… find someone who can handle these
— do not ask for the raw files after the wedding. you likely don’t have enough storage space for them and you can’t process them without special software anyway
— don’t be afraid to say “I love ______ these kinds of images” or “the way you shot this wedding is what I dream of” and please avoid sending endless pages of pinterest shots requesting direct copies of them…generalities about mood, or light or style are good. asking to just copy someone else’s work the entire day is not
— ask for a varied payment plan if you want that photographer but their payment outline isn’t feasible for your budget. worst case… ask if there is any amount of coverage they can give you within your budget, rather than asking them to do extra work for free
— asking for preferences or advice if you don’t know how to structure things in your timeline is thoughtful… (we have loads of anecdotes and experiences in different sizes and styles of weddings). asking your photographer when you will receive your day-of timeline is not… especially if that is not something that has been offered. we are not wedding planners. (some photographers get OFF on controlling your timeline. do what you will with that info)
— if you are having a good chunk of your wedding or reception indoors and after sunset, make sure your photographer is flash proficient
— try to think beyond the wedding enough to have awareness of your priorities– if you get your images and back and are going to be devastated that you don’t have pages and pages of detail images, that needs to be communicated to your photographer!
— do you have your own tips or advice? leave it below in a comment, or DM it to me so I can share it with others on my IG!