Out of all the things from your wedding day (the flowers, the dress, the tablescapes, the venue, etc) there’s really only one thing you are going to be able to take with you and enjoy for the rest of your life… WEDDING PHOTOS!
It’s sad, but it’s true. Your wedding photos are one of the only things you will have that will allow you to relive your big day. Because of this, you really can’t be too careful when choosing a wedding photographer. You want someone with lots of experience who will be reliable, thorough, creative, professional, and (believe it or not) have a personality you love.
After years in the industry, and from planning my own wedding, I get it; choosing a photographer can be overwhelming. There’s so many options out there. They are all kinda saying the same thing, but also not, and everybody’s photos look so different. But no need to get yourself worked up over it because I’m here to help you sort through all the information and give you tips that will help you find the perfect photographer for your wedding.
This is probably the first thing you think of or point out when you are looking at various photographers. This basically answers the questions “What do their photos look like??” Most people notice a photographer’s editing style but what people don’t think about is the shooting style, which is just as important. So let’s break these two things down a bit.
- Editing Style
Like I said before, this is the first thing people usually notice when looking at photographers. The way the photos look is really important. You want to look back and still be in love with the way the images look many years from now. Remember the photos we took back in 2003 with the really BAAAAD Picnik filters?? Yeah… we want to avoid that same feeling for your wedding photos 10 years down the line. 😬
- Here’s a little break down of some different styles you might find:
- Light and Airy: much of the image looks very bright creating a very light feeling. Really popular in sunny environments (you’ll see it a lot in Arizona and California). Not many harsh black and dark tones in the image. Usually doesn’t lean more warm or cool but this depends on the specific photographer.
- Dark and Moody: Everything in the image is crushed down to look darker and more mysterious. Colors are usually desaturated. Very popular in environments that are frequently overcast and cloudy (Think Pacific Northwest vibes) but you’ll still see it in sunnier environments as well.
- Warm and Earthy: This is a common style from photographers that travel all over the world and the environment is a huge part of their work. Characterized by true to life tones (not too bright/not too dark/) and slightly warm temperature to create a really inviting presence. Very popular amongst couples who are adventurous and want to include that in their wedding photos.
- Traditional/film inspired: This is probably what our parents think of first when they think of wedding photos. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Tones tend to lean slightly to the brighter side but there’s still lots of deep blacks and shadows in the images and color is perfectly balanced (not too warm/not too cool). You see this a lot from photographers that specialize in more luxury, high-end weddings but it’s still very common across the board.
- Here’s a little break down of some different styles you might find:
These are, in my opinion, the most common types of styles you will see from photographers, but of course this is not an exhaustive list. Many people like to be creative and try to blend different styles together. Generally speaking though, it’s good to have an idea of the style of photos you would like from your photographer.
- Shooting Style
This doesn’t come to most people’s minds when they are thinking of “style” but honestly I believe it’s one of the most important things to consider. When vetting potential photographers, be careful to not only focus on the editing style of the image, but also look at what is in the image itself. Let me explain…
You guys are the subjects of the image. You are what the photos are all about! All photographers pose and style their couples differently than others, and this can have a huge impact on how you look at your photos.
For example, when I was searching through photographers for my wedding, I was solely focusing on how the images looked. I found someone I thought I
really loved. While we were out for our bridal session, all my husband and I wanted to do was laugh, giggle, goof around, and
be cute together. All our photographer wanted to do was get romantic photos of us staring at each other. Now don’t get me wrong… we love our photos and they are BEAUTIFUL. But I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t disappointed when we got our photos back and there weren’t many images of us laughing and smiling together.
So ask yourselves these questions… What are the couples facial expressions in most of the images?? (ex. smiling, looking romantic, sleeping, laughing, etc.) What kinds of poses does the photographer seem to like?? (ex. fun/playful, romantic/sultry, traditional, mix of a few, etc.) Does the photographer shoot candid/documentary, artistic, posed, etc. Think about your personality and what is most important to see in yourself from your wedding images.
This is probably one you did not expect but in my opinion it definitely should be something you consider. The truth that you probably didn’t realize is that there’s a good chance you’ll spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than your partner. Now with everything going behind the scenes on your big day you want to make sure that person is your rock! Someone you can count on to handle sticky situations, who can hang around your friends, encourage you to feel good about yourself, and DOESN’T KILL THE MOOD! This means that it is important to determine if your personalities will vibe or clash from the beginning.
Now I’m not saying you gotta be best friends with the person, but just like your guest list, you should only invite people that you like.
So how do you determine this?? Make it a priority to have a phone call with them before booking. Recognize how they make you feel during that phone call. Hire them for your engagement session and use it as a trial run for the wedding day. I’m not saying this should be a make it or break it thing, but you definitely should feel comfortable around your photographer.
This one is pretty easy. These days, most every photographer is willing to travel but that doesn’t mean they will do it for free. If you want to stick with someone local then you don’t have to worry about this. But, if you’re open to spending a little extra for someone who isn’t local then it’s definitely worth checking out some other people in other areas.
Depending on the photographer, travel fees will be different. Most will ask that it at least covers the cost of travel to the location and a 2 night stay (that way they can get good sleep before and after the wedding). Whatever it is, please understand that travel fees are necessary to charge, otherwise we would make almost nothing, and asking your photographer to do it for free is putting them in a really hard situation (because they probably do want to say yes, they just can’t). However, if you are one of those unlucky folks who lives in a really expensive area (in some areas “low-budget” photographers charge $5000 or more) it could be more affordable to you to hire someone out of your area, even after travel fees.
Basically, if people in your area just aren’t doing it for you, consider the idea of looking in other locations.
The thing people hate talking about the most, but it must be done. Truth is that even if you have all the money in the world you are still trying to stick to a budget for your wedding. Typically photography is about 10%-20% of the total wedding budget depending on how important it is for you. For smaller weddings/elopements/adventure weddings that can be more like 30%-60%. You may start your search and find that your initial budget you allocated for photography is way lower than what everybody is charging, therefore you gotta adjust. It’s good to do a little bit of research on average prices in your area for the level of experience you’re looking for before you start the official search. Whatever your budget is you can always find someone great!
Try to set your price before you reach out to photographers so you can communicate with them what your expectations are. This will help out everybody in the long run. And then, if the perfect person for you is just a little over what you expected, be willing to be flexible for a better experience. Most of the time, photography is the last thing people regret spending money on.
Every photographer does their pricing and packages a little differently. Some have strict packages set up into three tiers and you pick the one that best fits what you’re looking for. Some are more flexible and create custom packages for every wedding. Neither way is right or wrong, but there can be one that is better suited to fit your needs. Think about what your non-negotiables are when it comes to packages. For example: you specifically want a customized wedding album in your package but are flexible between 7-9 hours of coverage. Then, talk with the photographers you are looking at and determine which one can give you what you want and which ones just aren’t quite the right fit. I have found that most of the time people are willing to work with couples to offer the exact services they’re looking for.
CHECK OUT THEIR PAST WORK
If there’s one thing I believe wholeheartedly it’s this: INSTAGRAM IS NOT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PORTFOLIO. 😅 So many times people look on instagram to find their wedding vendors (don’t get me wrong, that’s how most of my couples have found me) but it is so important to look further than that. Instagram is a highlight reel… right?? Not just for personal accounts, but for business as well. Most of what you’ll see on people’s feeds is t
he bride and groom portraits, maybe some wedding party photos, maybe a sweet moment from the ceremony, BUT WHERE’S THE REST??
Your wedding day is a day full of little moments that make up the whole experience. In my opinion, those moments are so much more important than those bomb golden hour portraits. So it is crucial that you see a photographer’s FULL GALLERIES before hiring them. See how they capture getting ready photos, what their photos look like in bad lighting, check out photos from the reception, the family photos, you literally want to see it all. This is going to help you see how much experience that photographer has and if they can give you all of what you’re looking for, not just the pretty couples portraits.
Check out their blog page and see what galleries they’ve posted up there. Then, while you are chatting with them, see if they’ll send you a link to a full client gallery. (Most of the time they’ll say yes but don’t be surprised if they say no because of privacy).
Who else scrolls through pages of Amazon reviews before actually buying something?? Just me…?? Cool. 😅
I actually believe that reviews are one of the most helpful resources for couples on the hunt for wedding vendors. In my opinion, reviews are not just there to show you whether someone is good or bad to work with, but answer the big “WHY” question. Check out the reviews on the photographer’s website, google listing, the knot/wedding wire listing, etc. and pay close attention to what people are saying in them; specifically, what the experience was like. For example: if a review says “We love our photos and stare at them every day. Abby had us laughing the whole time and we felt so comfortable with her. She’s so creative.” to me, the most important thing I got from that is that she makes people feel really comfortable. Whether people like their photos or not is relative, but the experience is what is going to make the difference.
Okay so maybe starting from scratch is stressing you out and you just don’t know what to do first. Well I would suggest starting with your friends and family. Ask them who their photographer was, what they like about them, and check out their photos. If your friends like them, there’s a good chance you will too. Plus it’s so much easier to trust a friend’s experience over a stranger’s review from the internet. Use the recommendations from people you know as a good starting point and that will guide you in the direction to find the right one for you.
Like I said before, the hunt for great wedding vendors can be overwhelming, but it also can be fun if you let it. I know there’s a lot to think about and consider, but the last piece of advice I will give you is to trust your instincts! More often than not your instincts are right. So if someone is just not giving you good vibes, don’t be afraid to say “thank you for your time but we are going with someone else.” And if someone is giving you the best vibes, pursue it!!! (It’s kinda like dating I guess 😂) Do that and follow these tips and you will end up finding the perfect photographer for your wedding day!