This might sound biased coming from me, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, photography is typically way up there on the priority list! (And this isn’t just my personal opinion– many of the industries top sites (and more importantly, married couples!) recognize photography as one the most important elements of the wedding planning!) Unlike most other vendors (like the cake, music, floral arrangements, officiant), the photography isn’t something that you can test before the big day. (Certainly you can view a photographers portfolio to get an idea of their style and experience, but you can’t see a mock-up or sample of your wedding day photographs until the day is done!) And with one shot only– no do-overs, no re-takes– it’s so important to do the research and choose the perfect photographer for you!
So today we’ve compiled a list of tips for finding the right wedding photographer:
- Personality first: Whaaaaat?! A photographer, whose list-topper isn’t the photos? YES, but hear me out! On this, one of the most important days of your life, you will surround yourself with those people who mean the most to you (your bridesmaids, groomsmen, family…), so why would you be any less selective with the person who will be by your side documenting the entire day? Experience shows that your feelings towards your portraits will be directly impacted by the way your photographer made you feel, so listen to your heart and choose someone that you feel comfortable with! Follow them on social media, read their blog, exchange some emails, and meet for a consultation to get a feel for who they are. And if you’re still on the fence, some photographers will allow you to book engagement portraits, and if you’ve loved working together, will even apply the cost of the session to a wedding booking!
- Check out the portfolio: A photographers portfolio is a sampling of their work and should be a representation of their shooting and editing style. Each photographers style is as unique to them as a signature, so it’s important to ask yourself if what they’re showing is how you would like to see your wedding day documented. If you’re dreaming of crisp, timeless images be sure to choose someone whose style reflects that, not the photographer whose samples are dark and moody. And while it may seem like a given, confirm that the body of work you’re seeing is in fact the work of the photographer you will be hiring! (True story: when Trevor and I were looking for a photographer to shoot our own wedding, one studio we met with had a portfolio that displayed two very different styles. After inquiring, we learned that the photographer whose work we really connected with was no longer working as an associate with this studio. The business was perfectly within their rights to be showing the images in their portfolio as they were shot by an employee of the business, but Trevor and I would have been disappointed if our photographs came back in a style much different from the one we thought we were getting!)
- Ask to see a full wedding: A photographers portfolio will naturally be a compilation of great moments from the various weddings that they’ve photographed, but it’s not quite the same thing as seeing a wedding gallery from start to finish! It’s unrealistic to assume that every image would be portfolio-worthy, so ask to view a full body of work to be sure that their work is consistently good!
- An experienced wedding photographer will be worth their weight in gold: When it comes to photography, wedding photography truly is a thing unto itself! Hiring a photographer who is experienced with weddings will mean that they will be knowledgeable with the flow of the day, and they can also be an invaluable tool to you! Need timeline help? They know timelines like the back of their hand. Wedding day emergency? Chances are they’ve seen it before, and they’ll be happy to help! Stressed out about navigating those family portraits? Don’t worry, they’ve got you covered! Hiring a studio that has experience in the wedding industry can be the difference between someone that’s just there, and someone who is there for you in ways that extend beyond just photography.
- Sign a contract: I know, contracts can seem like scary things! Or maybe it just seems unnecessary– why would you possibly need a contract? But on an event as big as your wedding day, a service that you’re investing so much money into, and one that you’re booking waaaaaay in advance, I would caution you to be extremely wary of any vendor (not just photographers!) who don’t require a contract for their services. At the very least, a contract (for wedding photography) should include: the date of service, duration of coverage, shooting locations, details of payments, any additional fees, the deliverable (what you’ll be receiving), a deadline (when you’ll receive your product), and what happens in the event of an emergency (ie: 1 month prior to the wedding the photographer is no longer able to do it– will you be refunded 100% of all payments made to date? Or will the photographer be supplying another professional to shoot in their place? If not, can they offer any assistance in finding another photographer?). Having a contract will lay out all these important details in black and white, and protects both parties. It’s a must-have!
- Prioritize: That doesn’t mean prioritize photography. Not at all! I mean, prioritize for you. Every person has a different set of priorities in every aspect of their lives– some people choose to spend their money on snow machines, while others opt for vacations somewhere hot. Some people can’t miss their weekly manicure appointment, while their best friend uses the same amount of money to buy a latte every day. If everyone was given $100, they would all find different ways to spend it! So one of my first pieces of advice for every engaged couple is to determine your wedding budget, and then make a list of all aspects of the wedding planning in order of importance. Does photography fall somewhere in your top 3? Then you’ll likely want to budget a larger amount for this service. Or maybe photography lands somewhere down in the middle– below the food, the dress, the music, the flowers– in which case you won’t need to budget $5000 for a phenomenal photographer! There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, there’s only what’s right for you.
Planning a wedding and finding each vendor can be a lot of hard work! But it all comes together into one of the most memorable days of your life, and it’s definitely worth the effort to find the photographer who will document the day in the most perfect way!