What Brides Should Know About Wedding Photographers

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If you are preparing for your wedding without the help of a professional wedding planner, you may be overwhelmed trying to get all of the details ironed out. You have your venue secured, you have picked out the perfect dress, your bridesmaids have been fitted, the groomsmen have not, and you have no idea what the difference is between cotton fiber and linen finish paper for invitations.

You know you want photos of your special day, but have no idea where to start.

Whether you are a bride, a groom, a parent, or anyone else helping to plan the big day, let me give you some tips that will make your search and experience a breeze.

A couple years ago, my wife and I were going through that very thing.

I had been shooting landscapes, portraits, and a few other things for a while, but I knew nothing about wedding photography.

We could have made some better choices. The old adage 'you get what you pay for' comes to mind. Now that I have been shooting weddings for a while, I have experience from both sides of the lens. Use this as a reference and learn from my experience (read as mistakes).

Things I Wish I Had Known For My Wedding

Before the Search

Before you begin searching for the perfect photographer, there are a few things you should do to make selecting easier.

  • Know what you are willing to spend. Keep your budget in mind. This is different for everyone and can depend upon the area that you live. While some may be willing to spend $10,000 on their wedding photos, some may only be able to afford $1,000 or less. The amount that you spend is NOT always directly proportional to quality, but be mindful and get reviews and recommendations.
  • Research average pricing in your area. Use websites such as costofwedding.com to get an idea of average cost of wedding photography in your area.
  • Find your style. Do a web search for wedding photos and bookmark a few that you really like. Look for a style that you really want to see in your pictures. We will come back to these in the next section.

The Search Begins

Now that you know what your spending limit is and what you want your pictures to look like, its time to begin the process of finding the perfect photographer for your day. Make sure that you start this process early, as many photographers book dates many months in advance, and some over a year.

  • Get recommendations.  Have friends in your area who recently got married? Ask them who their photographer was! Ask them about their experience and the cost. Many times, recommendations are the number one way to find a great photographer.
  • Check out local publications. Most areas have publications that highlight local businesses. Check the newspaper, or your local bridal magazine for photographers near you. The local chamber of commerce may also be a good resource.
  • Google it! Google is your friend! In the search box, type "wedding photography near (put your city and state here)" and Google will serve you tons of listings of photographers in your area. If you want to look into photographers that you find on Google, be sure to check their reviews and ask them for references.
  • Compare style. Pull up those images you saved in the previous section. Look at the photographers' portfolios and find some that closely match the style that you would like to see. When a photographer says that they can shoot any style, understand that their personal style and technique will always show through in the images.
  • Talk to photographers. Once you've sorted through portfolios and found some that you like, start contacting the photographers via email or phone to see if they are available on your wedding date.  Once you find those that are available on that date, its time to set up some face-to-face meetings!

Meeting With Photographers

It's time to get face-to-face. This meeting lets you get more information about the photographer and helps you decide who you want to capture your special day.

  • Prepare before the meetings. The more you do before the meeting, the more confident you will be during the meeting. If you are anything like my wife and I, these meetings can be stressful and nerve-racking. Before you begin meeting your potential photographers, develop a list of questions to ask. Make sure its written down or printed out and take it with you. Its not always easy to think of questions for the photographer while you are in a meeting with them. You are processing a lot of information while thinking of your budget and the other parts of your wedding as well.
  • Ask questions. Not just a few, ask a lot of questions. Make sure you have your list of questions so that you don't forget anything. Ask to see more of their work. Ask how much their services cost. Ask what's included in their services. Ask what packages they offer. Ask if you can add things later. Ask how long after the wedding will it take to get the pictures. Ask anything and everything you can think of so that you have a clear understanding of what each photographer is offering. If you are confused about anything, ask for clarification!
  • Take notes. While asking all of those questions, it will be hard to remember every answer. Take notes that you can reference and compare the different photographers that you meet.
  • Get a feel for their personality. Personality is very important. Make sure that the photographer's personality won't clash with yours, or the spirit of your wedding.
  • Think about it. Remember, you don't have to commit to a photographer while you are sitting there. As much as we would like to get a commitment from you, this is a big decision. Take a few days to think about it, discuss it with your fiancé(e), and compare your notes.
  • Hire them once you decide on a photographer who shoots in your style, fits your budget, and that you get along with. Remember to confirm the details, ask more questions, and GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. A contract protects both you and the photographer by laying out expectations for both parties.

Before The wedding

After your photographer is hired, its time to get into the details of your wedding.

  • Lists. Begin to think about exactly what you want in your photos. Develop a 'shot-list' of photos that you want to have forever. Once you have thought of these shots, prioritize them from 'Must-have', down to 'Nice-to-have'.  While your photographer will try to capture every moment and get every shot that you want, sometimes time doesn't always permit. If we know your priorities, we can make sure we get those Must-haves and fit in as many Nice-to-haves as possible.
  • More lists. Develop a list of group photos you would like during the portrait session. It helps when the photographer knows ahead of time so that we can plan appropriately. Also, dedicate a person who will be at the wedding to wrangle family members. The photographer usually doesn't know who Uncle Joe is, so its better to have someone who is familiar with the family and can help get everyone in place for photos.
  • Planning. Make sure that you plan time for portraits into your wedding day. People and things can run late and throw your wedding start time slightly behind. Make sure you schedule your day so that if your wedding is running slightly behind, you still have time to do your portraits.
  • Stay in contact with your photographer. Hopefully your photographer will be proactive and touch base with you every so often. Remember, it is still okay to ask any questions you have!

During The Wedding

  • Relax. During the wedding, let the photographer do the work you hired them to do. Your job is to GET MARRIED, so relax and enjoy the day.

After the wedding

  • Stay in contact. Again, your photographer should be contacting you to let you know progress updates and get any final details to finish products.
  • Be patient. Know that it can take some time after the wedding for you to receive your deliverables. Processing, production and delivery all take time and each step can only be completed after the previous. Make sure your photographer sets clear expectations with you.
  • Treasure your memories. When you receive your images, enjoy!


While it is a lengthy process, preparing beforehand and picking the right photographer is essential to a smooth, pain-free process. Communication is key! The more questions you ask, the less chance there is for confusion later. Set clear expectations and get everything in writing.

I hope this helps you in your search for the perfect photographer to capture your special day. Congratulations on your engagement and wedding!

 

Question: What has been your experience in searching for a wedding photographer? If you are currently searching, what questions do you have? Comment below!