How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer

There’s a lot of excitement that comes with planning your wedding. I mean, it’s only going to be the most incredible day of your life, right? But I’m going to be real with you: this day is going to fly by like no other! So finding the right person to document it is going to be one of the most important choices you’ll have to make about your wedding.

These tips will you help you find the perfect wedding photographer for your celebration.

What’s your budget?

This one is pretty straight forward. Before you get too deep into the hunt for a wedding photographer you’ll want to figure out how much money you’ve got to spend. Photographers’ fees will vary depending on where you are, the relative talent and experience of the photographers in your market and the respective packages they offer. You don’t want to get your heart set on the Jose Villa’s of the world if you’re not prepared to drop five figures (or more). In the end, how much money you want to invest in photography is a personal decision that only you can make. Don’t take out a second mortgage and don’t go for the $300 kid on Craigslist. Find that happy medium in between then get online and start searching.

What photography styles do you like?

As you’re cruising around the internet, getting a sense of who and what’s out there, what styles are you drawn to? What kinds of images are catching your eye? Are you attracted to a more formal, posed style? Or do you prefer candid, photojournalistic photos? Some wedding photographers have a stylized, editorial look while others approach weddings like a street photographer. Do you want the look of natural light or is it going to be important that your photographer is savvy with flashes? Recently there’s been a growing number of inventive wedding photographers who are creating unique images with the innovative use of angles, lights, prisms and double exposures.

Don’t worry if this is starting to sounds confusing. It’s not as hard to articulate what you like as it may seem. Ask yourself what you like about your favorite photos. Is it the composition, the lighting, the emotion captured, the simplicity? The good news is that you won’t necessarily have to lock yourself into one singular style. Most wedding photographers are nothing, if not versatile, so they’ll able to blend styles throughout the day. They may be a fly on the wall during the cocktail hour, but they’ll also know how to perfectly position, guide and light you during your portraits. A solid wedding photographer won’t leave you stranded, asking “…what do I do with my hands?” 

It’s all about connections!

At some point you’ll have done enough browsing through Pinterest, Instagram and Google to find your contenders. When that happens it’s time to start contacting them. You are going to want to work with someone that you mesh with, someone that feels like they could be a friend. If you can have a proper interview with them, great! Do that. Get a coffee or cocktail together. If you’re only able to meet virtually, via video chat, then do that. Just get the conversation going. 

You may find a photographer with killer photos who has all the technical skills in the world, but if you can’t build a comfortable rapport with them, it’s probably not going to be a match. After you’ve had a conversation or two, keep it going, keep talking. Because by the time this process is done—many months from now—you’re going to have built a real relationship with your wedding photographer. I’ll tell you from experience: the more you chat, the more comfortable you become. The more comfortable you are together, the better the images turn out. It’s okay to go with your gut here.

Take a deep dive

The photos that wedding photographers share on Instagram and in their portfolios are highlights. They are their top-notch images. Those photos don’t represent a full wedding day though. Not even close. They may have blog posts that come a little closer to showing you full weddings. But even then, 100 images isn’t the whole picture. Ask them to show you a few galleries of full weddings. Then you’ll start to get a better sense of what your photos may look like and what you’ll receive in the end.

Do they take a lot of detail shots? Are those important to you? Are there unnecessary duplicates? What’s the balance between formal family portraits and candid moments? Are there 400 images delivered from an 8-hour day, or are there 1,400? I can’t tell you precisely what to look for here. Hopefully it’s one of those scenarios where you’ll know it when you see it. But you definitely want to look critically at several edited, complete galleries before you make your final decision. 

What’s in the “package”?

It is important to know exactly what you’re getting in the delivered package. This will, of course, vary between photographers but an example package may look something like this: $4500 for 8-hours of shooting, all the digital images, (professionally edited) and a private online gallery.

Are there other add-ons? What if you only want 6-hours of coverage? How long will the gallery be online? Is there a USB drive? Will there be a second photographer? Is there an engagement session included? Are there any prints or albums included or are these upgrades? What you are going to receive should be clearly explained so there are no “gotchas” after the fact.

What about post-production?

The big day has come and gone, now what? Find out when those kick-ass photos are going to come your way. Every photographer I know does a ‘sneak peek’. This always varies (noticing a trend here?). Some photographers may email you a dozen of their favorites within a week. Others will share 5 photos on Facebook the next day. You’re definitely going to want to see something soon so ask them what you should expect.

Then there’s the complete package delivery. How long will it take and (roughly) how many images should you expect? And by the way, what does “editing” even mean? Is every image getting digitally retouched? Usually we’re applying global adjustments to every image. (Global adjustments means we’re effecting the entire image, not selectively brushing small areas inside a given photo.) Since today we’ve all got cameras and editing software in our pockets it’s a good idea to understand what “editing” means in the case of your wedding photos. 

The fine print: know you rights

Your wedding photos will come with some sort of usage rights. For instance you’ll probably be able to make unlimited prints, enlargements, etc. It’s likely you’ll be able to share the photos on social media. But you probably won’t be able to use the images for any sort of commercial purposes, or enter them into photo competitions.

Have your photographer explain to you the difference between the copyright and print rights. Typically this is stipulated in your contract, but ask them how they will be able to use the images. If you’re private people and would prefer that your photographer not use your photos on his/her website or social media I doubt it’s going to be a big deal. Be sure to ask about these rights.

You’ve got this!

Like I said in the beginning, planning your wedding can be super exciting…unless you’re stressed out. But sometimes it only takes a little bit of knowledge to squash those uneasy feelings. If you’ve already gone through this processes or just getting started what things have you learned along the way that you wish you knew earlier?

2 Comments
  • Andrea Rodriguez

    May 11, 2020at7:29 am Reply

    Great informative article! Having a connection with your photographer will definitely result in the best images.

    • Kevin

      May 18, 2020at10:27 pm Reply

      Thanks for the comment. Agreed! The photos consistently turn out better when you’re able to make a real connection.

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