How to Choose a Photographer
Your wedding is the most important day in your life, but once it's over, all you'll have to remember it by are your photographs. Choosing the right photographer is crucial; let our tips help you decide who to hire!
After the toasts are said, the cake is cut, and your guests have gone home after a fabulous night of celebrating, there’s only one person who will keep your wedding day memories alive forever: your photographer. Making sure you pick the right one is the difference between having photos that capture every emotion of the day — getting ready with your friends, the first time you see your other half all dressed up, the hugs, the tears, the joy — or not.
Different styles of photography will impact people in different ways, so there’s a lot to be said for doing your homework and finding a photographer that speaks to you.
Decide what’s Important to You
Before you look at photographers in your area, look through wedding magazines for inspiration. Don’t worry about the details of the specific wedding, but more about the style of the pictures. Do you like bright pictures with saturated colors? Or do you gravitate towards the softer images that have a more classic feel to them? Earmark all the photos you like and think about why you like that style. Discuss with your partner what they like or don’t like about them, so you can agree on a style together.
Once you know the style you like, start looking at photographers in your area. Most bridal magazines and websites will have credits with each picture, so now is the time to see if there are specific photographers that you chose more than others. While most photographers are experts at a variety of styles, finding one that shoots primarily in the style you like will result in a better end product. Look through their personal websites and social media to see a larger selection of their work.
Now that you’ve started looking at individual photographers, start looking at what they take pictures of in addition to the style they prefer. Do they take fun detail pictures like your rings and wedding programs? Do they capture the emotion of a first look or the fun of the dance floor? Having an eye for those moments and being able to get them on film will make sure you have amazing memories you can relive for decades to come.
Get to Know the Photographer
After looking through pictures and deciding what you do and don't like, try to narrow down your list to 3 to 5 photographers. This makes your research more focused, but also keeps from overwhelming you with options. A great way to narrow it down is to look at prices and reviews for each photographer you’re considering. If they’re out of your price range, consider if you have room in the budget to afford them, or cross them off the list of potentials. Then look at what previous couples have to say about their timeliness, their professionalism, and whether they’re fun to work with.
Once you’ve gotten your short list, start getting in touch with photographers and set up interviews. While their pictures are certainly fabulous, their personality is important as well. If you’re a naturally outgoing couple, working with a more reserved photographer may not be an issue; if you or your partner don’t like to be photographed or are worried about being natural in front of a camera, you may want a more outgoing or hands-on photographer. When you go to an interview, don’t be afraid to tell them which pictures specifically you like in their portfolio and why. Also, be ready to talk about your venue, your style, and any pictures that are important to you. While it’s best to leave them artistic discretion to capture your day, giving them an idea of the pictures you absolutely have to have is also important, whether that’s your first look, family photos, or certain details.
Also ask if you can see a complete wedding album. It’s common practice to only show the highlights on websites and portfolios. Seeing a full album will give you an idea of what your final product will look like. If the entire album or gallery is amazing, you’re on the right track! If you flip through a gallery and there are a few amazing ones but the rest don’t fit what you’re looking for, take that into consideration. Be sure you look at galleries of weddings similar to yours, such as location (indoor or outdoor), season, and time of day.
Examine the Fine Print
Make sure you ask about pricing and availability, but also the fine print of the entire photography package. There’s your usual day-of photos like the ceremony, family shots, and the reception, but also consider if you want your photographer to be there for getting ready shots, a first look, or dance floor fun. Negotiate these up front and make sure everything you want is covered — many photographers charge a higher price for overtime hours on the day of if you decide last minute you want them to stick around. Ask if they include an engagement shoot in the package, or if you can get a discount for doing both with them. The same goes if there are pre-wedding things you’d like them to cover, such as the rehearsal dinner or a bridal shower brunch.
Also ask about post production details such as the expected timeline for proofs. Understand that a professional photographer is dealing with raw image files that are way bigger than your standard file from a phone camera or point and shoot camera. This allows them the freedom and ability to edit your photos perfectly, but it also takes quite a bit of time. Expect your turnaround time to be several weeks, especially if you are getting married during the busier times of the year.
Finally, know what your contract says you can and can’t do with your photos once you have the files in hand. Some photographers will require you to use their services for printing — such as for an album or frame-ready prints — and some will give you a release to have them printed wherever you choose. It should be in your contract, but make sure you know ahead of time so you aren’t surprised later.